The Final Exam
That awkward moment when you show up for class, sit down at your desk, and realize that everyone else is preparing to take a test you had no idea about. You rack your brain trying to remember any mention of the test, you urgently try to think of an excuse to get you out of it; perhaps you could pretend to be sick. You nervously pray that it’s all just a big joke or a dream. But the teacher has already begun passing out the test and there’s no escape. You’ve got to simply do the best you can and pray for a miracle. Being surprised and found unready is not something many people look forward to, yet many of us are likely to find ourselves in that very situation when it matters most.
I’m 38 years old, just five years shy of the age my mom was when she was first diagnosed with cancer. My mom was 43 and I was a junior in high school. I was thinking about this the other day when the thought occurred to me that the very same thing could happen to me, at any moment really. (For those concerned, no, I don’t have cancer that I know of). And if I were diagnosed, what would happen? What would I do? If I only had a short time to live, how would I react? Am I ready for that?
I’ve read the lives of many saints and one thing that separates them from the rest of us is their reaction to suffering and death: St. Therese the Little Flower rejoiced when she first coughed up blood from Tuberculosis, St. Pier Giorgio Frassati hid his sickness so as not to impose upon others, and Blessed Alexandrina exuded joy throughout her many years of excruciating pain. If I had something like two years to live, or unending pain would I, like them, exude joy and faith or would I shrivel up and turn inwards? Would I, as I hope, finally begin living a life worthy of the name Christian? That’s what it comes down to; it’s in this that we pass the test. Am I ready to love Christ in the pain and suffering? Will I find my joy and hope in his faithfulness? Am I ready like Blessed Alexandrina to say, “Yes Lord, I will give whatever you ask”?
I’m not sure I would be ready for that. Suffering aside, what it comes down to is, am I ready to die? If I died today or tomorrow, would I pass the test? No, that’s not right. I don’t just want to pass the test; I want to ace it! Isn’t it all about love after all? And why would I settle for just squeaking by? By comparison, would I be a good husband or father if I was satisfied with giving my family mediocre love?
I hold to this fantasy that I’ll be like my mom. She loved amazingly, if not perfectly, but when she was diagnosed with cancer, she experienced a transformation and became a giant, an expert, an ace in faithfulness and love. But isn’t it kind of foolish to wait until a tragedy or long-suffering happens to start loving like that?
I wonder what my life would look like if I started living like I was dying. Do you ever wonder about that? Do you ever pray about it? Perhaps we should. It’s quite an effective reality check, don’t you think?
None of us can honestly claim surprise when we encounter that final test. We will be asked a simple question, “Do you love me?” How we spend our lives studying for this test will make all the difference.
- Blessed Alexandrina: http://www.blessed-alexandrina.com/
- Blessed Pierre Giorgio Fassati: http://frassatiusa.org/
- St. Therese the Little Flower: http://www.littleflower.org/therese/