Maybe it is because today is my birthday or maybe it is because we just lost a dear family member to cancer, but life and death have been on my mind a lot lately. The funny thing about being a priest is that those two things are almost always held in tension. In the course of one week, I can hold the hand of a dying person and then bless a baby at the communion rail. I can celebrate a funeral and baptize a child in the course of two days. I can officiate a wedding and offer counsel to someone getting a divorce in a matter of weeks. And so, with the death of our family member so fresh in my mind, I took a deep breath on the way to work today and thanked God for this wonderful life that I have been given. Many days I grumble and complain about the little stuff of life – but today, both life and death are giving me perspective.
The same has been true about my work lately. This past weekend, The Diocese of Long Island held its Annual Convention. In the Bishop’s address, he told us about the many churches around the diocese that had closed or merged with other parishes. Though he ran through the list relatively quickly, I knew all too well how painful each of those closures must have been. I have been a part of churches that have had to close and it is a brutal process – it feels very much like the death of a loved one.
But just like in the death of a loved one, life slowly springs up. The Bishop told us about a particular parish in Brooklyn that had to close due to “life-safety issues.” Located near the Barclays Center, the sale of the property netted almost $20 million for the Diocese – all of which is being invested and distributed. Some of the proceeds will go to support local churches and ministries while others will be used for international missions. But out of that death is coming tremendous life. Though we mourn with that community, through the death of that stage of their ministry they are birthing incredible new life.
And such is life – a continual cycle of life and death, suffering and blessing, mourning and celebrating. Today, I turn toward celebration and life. I can do that with deep joy because the sobering reality of death sets me free to appreciate every blessing of this life. My cup runneth over – thanks be to God!