Just before her death Joan of Arc wrote, “I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and yet they give their lives to that little or nothing.
One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it and then it’s gone. But to surrender what you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying – even more terrible than dying young.” The events of September 11 lead me to ask you this question: What are you willing to give your life for?
There are two ways to interpret the question, but I am not asking you what are willing to die for… I am wondering, what are you willing to live for? What are you willing to give your life for? Not in death and martyrdom, but in life by lending the moments of your life to some great cause.
On September 11 we learned a lesson that history has taught us many times before. The most powerful people in history are those who are willing to give everything. The nineteen hijackers were willing to give everything to complete their mission. On both sides of the fence of good and evil, in every age the most powerful agents of change are those people willing to give all their time, effort, and energy without reserve to the cause they deem worthy of their lives.
We saw this in the hijackers and we saw this in Hitler, but we also saw it in Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola and countless other heroic men and women throughout history who have given their lives to the service of God, humanity, and the Gospel. The question I ask again is: What are you willing to give your life for?
Perhaps a better place to start is with the question: What are you giving your life to? When you assess the way you spend your days and your weeks, what are you contributing your time, efforts, and energy towards?
As a teenager I used to play a lot of golf at a club not too far from where we lived. I remember how some men used to spend their whole lives at the golf club. There were one or two in particular whose whole lives seemed to revolve around the life of the club. They would play, but they were also on the board, and from time to time I would even see them working in the gardens that surrounded the first tee… pulling weeds or trimming bushes.
Even as a child I remember thinking that there must be something lacking for them to spend their lives this way. But I suppose we all need something to live for, and for them it was the golf club.
The events of September 11 heighten my awareness of how brief and precious our time here on earth is. These events help me to treasure my own life more and more with each passing day. But they also challenge me to reassess the ways I am spending the time, effort, and energies that are my life.
I am more intimately aware than ever before that we all waste life. Sometimes we waste a day here and day there. We waste some days caught up in unforgiveness and we waste other days immersed in frivolous and irresponsible activities. Life is passing us by. Life is wonderful, brief, and yet, filled with unimaginable potential. Within each of us there is a light.
It is the light of God and when it shines it reflects not only the wonder of God, but also the greatness of the human spirit. I pray that in the light of recent events we don’t become discouraged and fearful, but rather that we turn our focus to nurturing that light within us. I pray that we allow it to be nourished and grow.
Darkness has one enemy that it can never defeat – light. Darkness cannot survive in the presence of light. Let your light shine. As we reflect on our brief and precious lives, let us also remember that they are but a transition to a long and blissful eternity.
Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Remember you have only one soul; that you have one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be a great many things about which you care nothing.”