Memorial of Saint Frances Cabrini, woman religious
(Wisdom 13:1-9; Luke 17:26-37)
“Don’t ask for whom the bells toll, it tolls for thee,” writes poet-priest John Donne. Of course, the bells he has in mind are the death toll. Although many people prefer to put off thinking about it, the hour of life’s end incessantly approaches. For those with sixty years behind them, it will surely be sooner rather than later.
Jesus makes the same point in the gospel today. With an image that might chill a polar bear, he warns, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” He means that death is part of life because we have bodies which will one day be the food of animals. So, Jesus admonishes, humans should prepare for the inevitable.
Jesus’ injunction to deal with mortality deserves attention. Although it is most always prudent to resist death, we prepare for it by self-denial. Jesus himself is our primary example. He took up his cross not just in Jerusalem but throughout his public ministry. St. Frances Cabrini serves as another model. She gave up her native Italy to work tirelessly with the poor of the United States. We follow both by dying to self in service of others, by performing periodic penitential acts, and by prayer that recognizes God, not we, is the source of true life.