His Crowning Achievement
The Lantern Vol 27
This past summer I had the opportunity to visit one of my uncles during a family holiday function.
This is someone I have known and loved for many years. He was surrounded by an extensive family of children and grandchildren and friends.
He is an outdoorsman who likes camping and boating, taking out a jeep through the woods and just having fun. He not only shares our families strange sense of humor, but has been a source of its spread.
A few years ago he began suffering from a debilitating neurological disease. So he has gone from an active outdoors person to a wheelchair and bed dependent person.
Our hearts are broken to see someone we love experience the changes that come to so many with old age.
This is an all too common occurrence for the elderly and our society usually refers to these times as end of life issues.
There is one difference between my uncle and so many that suffer this way and that is, he is a Catholic . Not only a Catholic, but a practicing Catholic. Someone who over the years has put his faith at the center of his life. I cannot tell you who he worked for or what secular achievements he has accomplished. I do not know if he was a civic leader or great businessman. I saw he was a man whose focus was on life, and living it with faith filled love. If someone asked me what my uncle’s crowning achievement in life was, I would say he is working on it right now.
As a Catholic he is joining his sufferings to Christ. Something is not happening to him but rather he is participating, working on his crowning achievement. As St Paul said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Colossians 1:24
People love to read the bible and the life of Jesus Christ. Who does not wish they were there for the miracles, or to witness the greatest moment of human evolution. A period where mere creatures on this earth were elevated to Children of God. If we think about it, what was Jesus crowning moments of His life? It was when he was crowned with thorns and crucified. We might love to talk about Christ’s life but that pales in comparison to His death: something so unbelievable and spectacular that it changed every human person ever born.
When we Catholics participate in this bodily surrender here on earth, the bystanders, the family and friends are filled with sadness. We do everything we can to reduce our loved ones suffering. Christ wept at the death of Lazarus even though He was to bring him back to life. This always interested me in that it was a double edge sword. Why if heaven is so wonderful, would Christ weep? Maybe he felt in his human body the pain of loss. Maybe he knew his friend could not be in the face of God until he accomplished His mission. Or maybe he understood that someone who had confronted death and won his race would have to do it again for the honor and glory of God.
It is a wonderful thing to see the compassion of others at these times. We sometimes forget the meaning of the word. Compassion means to suffer with, to share, or cooperate with their suffering. Sometimes we do everything to mitigate that suffering. Remember when Peter did not want Christ to suffer and die?
As I looked upon my uncle I believe he understood where he was in life. He is working on his crowning achievement. He has linked his life and sufferings to Christ as he prepares himself to finish a race. To carry that final cross up that hill. His family is now like Simon the Cyrene, helping him carry his cross. His suffering is not in vain. It is not a meaningless journey that is thrust upon him. It is the crown he is weaving, an adornment of glory, the final journey of a sacramental life. It is hard for me to be sad as I see him work so faithfully on this worthy goal. It is hard, because his witness makes me love him all the more.
Please, as one body, join me in prayer for the sanctity of those we love. Especially those who are sick and struggling in life. In a time where our Church is so lost we rely on the domestic church, the family. May our prayers help strengthen the mystical body in all of its trials. My uncles witness has never shined so bright, I have never seen him stronger.