What Death Teaches Us About Our Relationships

Am 8:4-7; 1Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13

“If it is possible, I would give anything to have him back.”

This is not a line from a sad love song, at least not one that I know.

It is actually a heartfelt prayer that I said to God a few months ago when my father suddenly passed away. I knew it was impossible but I just wanted to express then my deepest desire to God no matter how unreasonable or theologically flawed it may sound.

Little did I know then that death was teaching me one of the most important lessons in life. I was learning by experience that the most important thing in our lives is a good relationship with God and with others. When we experience the death of loved ones, everything else fades in comparison with having some more precious moments with our beloved.

Our communion with God and with others has primacy in this life firstly because God is a relationship of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God also desires to bring us into deeper communion with Him and with others to the point of sharing His own life with us by grace now and by glory in the next, “God our savior wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

This is no empty desire on the part of God. God will give and do anything to bring us into a deeper relationship with Him. He gave us His only begotten Son for the sake of this relationship with us as His children. His Son Jesus gave Himself on the cross for the sake of this same relationship, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” (1Tim 2:3-5) We also received the Holy Spirit to make this adopted relationship a reality. He is constantly forgiving us for our sins and bestowing on us graces for this purpose.

Created in the image and likeness of God, we need to ask ourselves what we are ready to do and to give to mature in our love for God and for others? Are we receiving the mercy and grace of God that makes us His children without striving to love God and neighbors well?  

The dishonest steward in Lk 16:1-13 was a selfish and wasteful servant who seemed to indulge in his master’s property. He had a wake-up call when the master said to him, “Prepare a full account of your stewardship because you can no longer be my steward.” His time of service was over. Isn’t this what God will say to us too when we draw our last breath and our time of earthly service too has come to an end?

The steward converted and became a man who used all that he had at hand – the promissory notes – to secure his future through better relationships with others. He now invested in relationships and not in his own selfish desires and goals, “I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.”

Jesus points to him as an example of how we are to make good use of all that we have now because our future depends on our relationships today, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” No matter how it was acquired and used, such wealth will fail sooner or later, whether it is money, health, success, fame, pleasure, etc. But our communion with God and with others here on earth prepares us for the unfading riches of heaven.

There are three questions that help us to personally discern if we are really making use of everything to grow in our relationship with God and others:

How was this thing acquired? Was it acquired in a way that respects the rights of God? Was there greed, theft, or dishonesty involved in the acquisition of this thing? Was this thing sought and obtained without any thought for the will of God? Did I trample on the rights and dignity of others in acquiring this wealth? Did I take advantage of others in getting this wealth?

How is it being used? Is it being used for doing the will of God and helping others to do the same or is it used for self-gratification or self-promotion? Is it used in serving and caring for others or for dominating them? Is this thing furthering the glory of God or is it contributing to the kingdom of darkness? Is it helping me to grow in holiness or is it making me more vicious?

What is the effect of this thing on me? Does it make me more grateful and trusting in God or does it bring about pride and self-dependence? Does it make me more or less sensitive to the needs of others? Do I become more selfish or selfless? Is this thing an idol for me, something that I worship and crave endlessly? Does it corrupt me or bring out the best in me?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must ask these questions always if we are ever going to pursue and enjoy things in a way that allows us to grow in our love for God and for all others. Everything in our lives – time, treasure, and talents – is given to us to grow in love for God and others by making prudent use of all that God has given to us. We waste them when we seek to acquire and use them in a way that wounds our relationship with God and with others.  

At the moment of our death, our earthly service in the kingdom of God will be over. We will give a strict account to God for all His gifts to us and how we have used them all. God is generous with His gifts but He is not wasteful at all. This is the moment to grow in our relationship with God and with others to the best of our ability and aided by divine grace.

The God of relationships who labors continuously to bring us into a deeper relationship with Him comes to us in each Eucharist to renew our love for Him and for others. He is always acting for the sake of this improved and enduring relationship with us and with others. He invites us to do the same all the time with all that we have.

Let us not wait for the moment of death – the death of our loved ones or our own death – to learn this lesson. 

Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

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