Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:46)
Years ago, I made a retreat at a monastery in Boston. When I met my director on the first night, he said, “This week, I want you to write your obituary.”
This may sound like an easy or simple exercise, but it wasn’t. The longer I worked on it, the more I felt my inner poverty. So much of my activity seemed frantic. So many of the things I thought were so important looked foolish. So many of my relationships needed so much work. I felt like I had so much to do, clean up, and make amends for before I finished this life.
By the end of the week, I was on my knees, singing this song: “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me…”
At the end of our life, what will have mattered? What will we be able to say that will commend our life to God?
St. John of the Cross wrote, “At the end of our life, we will be measured in love.” I believe St. John is right. It’s the love we have given, received, and shared that will have mattered the most.
I also believe that at our final hour, we have only two things that commend us to God. Here’s the first one again: “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me…” Jesus’ blood, sacrifice, and cross. The second thing that commends us to God is Jesus’ final words, “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”
Just as Jesus commended Himself to God at His death, so He has been commending His followers to God ever since. It’s Jesus who pleads for us, acquits us of our crimes, ransoms us from slavery, and redeems our fallen condition. It isn’t our work that commends us to God, but His. Not our prayers which bring us into glory, but His: “Father, into your hands I commend Joe…and Kim…and Joyce…and…”
I encourage you to write your own obituary. Writing mine reminded me of how much I need Jesus. Writing your own obituary may remind you of the same. How we want to be remembered when we let go of this life helps to clarify what’s most important right now.
- From your perspective, what’s the difference between writing a resume and writing an obituary?
- Before you let go of this life, what work do you need to do? What amends do you need to make? What do you need to let go of?
- How do you want to be remembered? If indeed you want to be remembered in certain ways, are there any adjustments or changes you might need to make?