Mankind has longed debated the pros and cons of immortality. The idea of possibly prolonging one’s period of influence on this earth seems somehow very tempting, and death, well, lacks charm. As we all know, youth is wasted on the young; it would be nice to be granted a do-over, or several, for that matter. Seems like you just get going and the buzzer goes off – time’s up! One of the prizes the explorers of the New World sought was a Fountain of Youth, a way to restore vigor and good health, and to simply grant a body a little more time on this earth. That “youth” part is of course a key detail – the ancient Greeks spun myths concerning creatures like Tithonus, a man granted the gift of immortality. Having neglected to procure eternal youth while he was at it (oops!), Tithonus became, after several hundred years, so wizened and shrunken that he was transformed into a cicada, crying out his wish to be allowed to die. Immortality, the Greeks were trying to tell us, can be a real mixed blessing….
The Christian belief system affirms this, for as we know, no one created by God will ever cease to exist. Not only will you and I exist forever, but our names will live forever as well. Take Pontius Pilate, for example: dead for 2,000 years, but his name will be mentioned more than once in the coming Holy Week. The name of Pontius Pilate will live forever; it crosses the lips of millions of people every single day as they recite the Creed:
He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died and was buried.
Of course, that’s not the kind of thing you would want your name to be associated with. Yet that is exactly the kind of thing the distressing number of human beings will be remembered for. Immortality is a reality – our souls will never die. At the Second Coming, our bodies will be reunited with those souls, either to eternal Life or to eternal death in Hell. One way or another, we will exist forever, and we will be remembered for our deeds.
What will you be remembered for? Trust me, it won’t be for your witty repartee or your devastating good looks. Whatever it is that you are remembered for, it will be in association with your relationship to Jesus Christ, as demonstrated by the above quote from the Creed: “HE WAS CRUCIFIED under Pontius Pilate.” Compare/contrast that with the billing given to the followers of the Lord in Luke 8:1-3:
[Jesus] went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Herod’s steward, Chuza, no doubt, was a man of influence in his day, a man who had made a name for himself, but 50 years after his death I doubt anyone knew he had ever lived. His wife Joanna, though, was immortalized in Scripture due to her relationship with the Savior. Jesus went about preaching and bringing the Good News of the Kingdom, and Joanna helped provide for Him. “The Twelve were with Him” – not a bad way to be remembered, either. A blessed number of us will be remembered simply like this:
For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.
That’s the goal. That’s what all of this Lenten practice has been leading up to. “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.” Better than celebrity, better than good health, better than youth and opportunity, I might add. How will you be remembered?
It’s going to matter for a long, long time.
On the memorial of St. Erkembode de Thérouanne
Deo omnis gloria!