I am writing a book that adapts Tibetan Buddhist analytical meditations for Christians. One of the meditations is about death, designed to help us develop a deeper realization of the uncertainty of the time of death. The thought behind the Tibetan meditation is that a realization that death will inevitably come and can come at any moment provides an impetus to more serious spiritual practice.
As I was writing the commentary for the adapted meditation, I was reminded of a passage we heard in Mass last week from St Luke’s Gospel. Talking about what will happen in the “days of the Son of Man,” Jesus talks about how people were eating and drinking when the flood came and destroyed them and how people were selling and planting when Sodom was destroyed. And he tells them that “on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.”
As I thought about Jesus’ words in connection with the uncertainty of the time of death, what struck me was the description of what people were doing in their final moment. Although Jesus is talking about the second coming, the same is true of death – with no warning, it will come, which means that any moment could be our last moment.
And the question we might want to ask ourselves is, if each moment could be my last, would I be happy if some of my moments were my last moment? A nasty word to someone that offended me? Being in so much of a rush that I cut someone off in traffic? Telling my daughter I’m too busy watching TV when she asks me to look at something for her homework? What would you want the last thing you ever did to be?
If we could really get in touch with the reality that death could occur at any moment, wouldn’t that have an effect on our behavior? If we really knew that any moment could be last, perhaps we would do more to make each moment count.