Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, virgin
(Wisdom 13:1-9; Luke 17:26-37)
“Don’t ask for whom the bells toll,” the poet-priest John Donne writes, “it tolls for thee.” Of course, the bells in mind here ring the death march. Although we prefer to put off thinking about it, the hour of our judgment is near. For some of us it will be sooner rather than later that we give account of our lives.
Jesus makes the same point in the gospel today. With an image that might send a chill up a polar bear’s back, he says, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” That is, death is part of our lot in life because we have bodies which will one day stop functioning. So, Jesus adjures us, we must prepare ourselves for the inevitable.
Jesus’ prescription for dealing with our mortality deserves attention. We are not to try staving off death indefinitely through art or science. Rather, we are to give ourselves over to death by denying ourselves. We can look toward St. Frances Cabrini as an example. Like Mother Teresa two generations later, Mother Cabrini worked tirelessly to meet the needs of the poor. It is said that parents chided their teenagers when they came home late, “Who do you think you are -- Mother Cabrini walking the streets day and night?” Still we hope that our young will, like her, extend themselves for the good of others.