January 7, 2015

A Centenarian's Lesson: Don't Wait for Tomorrow [ACNM]

Raise your hand if you are a procrastinator. (If you raise your hand later, I'll understand.) Of all the things we sometimes put off during the course of our lives, there is one thing far more important than anything else that we should never wait to do: follow Christ.

Never was this point made more clearly than in a homily I heard one year ago this month. Deacon Emmanuel Nwokocha from St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Pflugerville, Texas had just retuned from a three-week trip to Nigeria to attend the funeral and burial of his 101-year-old father.

Deacon Emmanuel Nwokocha [Photo: Pat McCord]

In his homily, Deacon Emmanuel explained how he spent some time alone with his father as he was lying in state. He reflected on the accomplishments and failures of his father and wondered if he still had plans for his future before he died.

During the last few years of his life, the deacon's father did something remarkable. He reached out to people he had offended and asked for their forgiveness. At the same time, he contacted those who had offended him and offered his forgiveness.

While it was sad to hear the deacon discuss the loss of his dad, I felt an overwhelming sense of grace while listening to the homily, knowing that the man was truly at peace when he passed away.

Then came the part of the homily that really stuck with me:

It dawned on me that it was over for my dad. All his plans for tomorrow will never materialize, that he is now standing before God to account for his deeds, good or bad.....I wondered how many of those who came for my father's burial have plans for tomorrow, how many plan to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ tomorrow, how many have plans to make peace with their neighbor tomorrow, how many have plans to forgive someone tomorrow, and so forth, forgetting that tomorrow is not guaranteed. So in eulogizing my Dad, I reminded the audience that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not a thing for tomorrow, it is a here and now event and anyone procrastinating about it needs to make that decision today because tomorrow is not guaranteed. I noted that it is no longer enough to say I am a Christian in words alone, but that it is necessary to reflect the presence of God in our daily lives.

I have a feeling that through divine intervention the deacon's father reached a point where he felt like had done all he needed to do, or at least all he could do. In the homily he said that one night his father gathered his family by his side, gave them a blessing and told them that if he was not there in the morning not to worry. He passed away that night.

[To read the rest of this post, please jump over to Austin Catholic New Media.]


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