Jewish World Review Oct. 27, 2003 / 1 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
What would we die to know?
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | In all this coverage of the pope's golden anniversary, one alarming little item passed my desk. Apparently he knows when he's going to die. I don't know how he knows, but suffice it to say he knows. He's told his closest confidantes this and seems largely motivated by this.
Now there are a lot of people who don't flip over the Catholic Church and think even less of the pope for presiding over numerous scandals. I'm biased, of course, as I'm Catholic. I think he's done a remarkable job and, along with Ronald Reagan, probably even spearheaded the collapse of Communism itself. But that's another story.
I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that this pontiff knows when he will leave this world. It could explain his unusual haste in beatifying Mother Teresa and appointing no fewer than 30 new cardinals in the last week alone. He's traveled to more countries, introduced more saints and spoken out on more global issues than all the popes combined.
Why the rush? Why the big fuss? I think I know why. This pope senses he is running out of time, and he's got a lot to do. And it got me thinking: What would I do differently if I knew the exact day and hour I was going to leave this planet? It's a scary thought. I mean, it's not as if any one of us will escape death, so it's probably a good thing we think about death . . . but the exact hour?
How many of us would fret over the little things if we knew one "big" thing the hour of our passing? I suspect we wouldn't worry as much about the knucklehead veering into our lane on the highway, or the guy who takes forever at the ATM machine. I doubt we'd give much thought to political infighting, or the annoying chap at work sucking up to the boss.
I don't think we'd worry about the boss, or the people we work with, or work, period. We'd likely complain less about the little travails of life and focus a lot more on the meaning of life on our spouses, kids, relatives and friends. We'd hug more and complain less. We'd laugh more and worry less. And we'd think more and yap less.
Kind of like the pope is doing now.
There's clearly no litmus test to what the pope is up to. We Catholics in the United States forever urge him to get with the times and modernize. Priests should marry. Birth control should be OK. Silly mandatory Mass requirements should be suspended for all those holy days. The pope hears it all, and yet he dismisses it all. If he were running for office, he couldn't manage to tick off more people.
Those in favor of the Iraq war don't like the fact this pope was against the Iraq war. Liberals pushing abortion don't like the fact this pope is against abortion. Both sides say he is unreasonable. But maybe that's because we can't understand his reasoning or divine the possibility that it comes from a higher reasoning.
I'm not here to take a position on war or abortion. I am here to take a position on folks who march to a different drummer and a different cause, who see life not as something day-to-day but era-to-era. Deeply holy people can be scary people. They certainly don't see the world as I do.
They lack my impatience. They don't shout as much as me or argue as much as me. It's as if they're telling me the things that have a habit of working me up ultimately will get worked out.
There's something very peaceful, I suspect, of knowing when you're going to die; of trying to make a difference by making a statement in your actions and in your very demeanor.
Say what you will of this pope, but he seems to have that demeanor. Although riddled with Parkinson's disease and slowed by age, his eyes seem to take us all in . . . all our worries, all our angst, all our fears, all our anxieties.
Mine is a life devoted to covering financial news on a very popular cable news channel that reports on the day-to-day, oftentimes, the minute-to-minute. Leave it to a guy who walks this earth in weird outfits and hats to make sense of human nature and greater callings.
He sees life not as it is but as it can be. Life no doubt taught him that. But death, and knowing and embracing its moment, made him appreciate that. There's nothing like knowing about dying to find out truths we would all . . . die for.
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