Throughout this book I’ve talked about the need to live each day as if it’s our last. We have no natural, divine right to a long life; what we’ve experienced has been a gift, even through sorrow, sadness, failure and frustration.
Most of us will live for months, even years on into an increasingly unpredictable future. How are we to prepare for this, for living each day as if it’s our last, for possibly ten, twenty, or more years – and not just for ourselves, but for and with our spouse and family?
Again, as I have expressed several times before, I believe it helps to remember that, as persons created in the image of God, we are both body and spirit. We are not mere biological beings, as the scientific materialistic atheists would tell us, destined to become fertilizer when we die, […]. Nor are we just heavenly spirits trapped in earthly bodies, such that only the destiny of our soul matters. Rather, we are both, which is why our faith has always emphasized the resurrection of the body: at death our souls face a first, personal judgement; meanwhile our bodies remain in the ground, decaying, maybe for centuries, until our souls and bodies are reunited in the general resurrection on Judgement Day.
Living each day as if it is our last means keeping our souls in grace, clean of sin and free from the attachments to this world that we gain through the senses of our bodies. But since, according to God’s providence, we may be gifted with decades of living, we must be good stewards of these bodies, so that our whole being, body and soul, can flourish in faith hope and love. [F]or this to happen we must provide the bodily goods (food, liquids, clothing, shelter) we need so that our entire person can thrive. At the same time, we must strive to become unattached to unnecessary external goods because attachments can conspire to overpower, subdue, and conquer us, body and soul.
In determining what action we need to take – daily and for years to come – we must recognize that salvation is not an individualistic quest. We are called to be faithful individuals within the Body of Christ, the Church. Our call to love our neighbor as Christ loved us means that we are called, therefore, not only to be ready ourselves, but to do all that we can to help our neighbors live today as if it is their last day – to be ready spiritually to meet God. Are they living in grace? Are their souls pure?
But this means recognizing that we and our neighbors – we and our families – may be living together for a long time! How can we help each other without becoming burdens to each other? Certainly we’re called to help and care for each other, yet we can’t presume on this – we can’t merely assume that if we get sick or disabled, our children will pick up the slack. A glutton or a hoarder robs from the bodily goods of others, eventually becoming a burden on them through neglected health and accumulated attachments, and when he dies, such a person leaves behind an irresponsible burden of unnecessary goods. This means that each of us ought to live healthful, simple, selfless lives, so that if one day we have no choice but to be a “burden”, we will be as little of a burden as possible – maybe even a blessing.