I was driving today when I saw a sign. It was both a real sign and a sign of something else, or so it struck me at the moment. It was a sign of springtime and of winter—springtime in the New England air, winter in our world. The sign, announcing a swimming pool company, read: “Life is short. Buy a pool.”
I would like to tell you that I meditated on this sign all day long. I didn’t. I don’t meditate on anything more than a few minutes, usually, before forgetfulness sets in. Instead, the sign went quickly, quietly to my heart, said something, and then was forgotten during an afternoon of reading, thinking I should be gardening, napping, and attending Mass at 4 p.m. to see fifteen eight-year-olds receive First Holy Communion.
Here, as best I can remember, is what the sign said. It said that if life is short, there are solutions more urgent and redemptive than buying a pool. If life is short, and we all acknowledge that life is short (hence the sign), why don’t we look beyond trivial pleasures? Why don’t our hearts ache for something that will really make a difference, something that will overcome death? Or is it the case that our hearts do ache, but we dull the pain with pleasure and forgetfulness?
As a world, it seems that we’ve given up on heaven. Now, our only solutions to life’s brevity are either to party now or to demand that science solve death through medicine, advances in genetic technology, and the like.
Thomas More knew that life was short, and he meditated on the Four Last Things. We know that life is short, so we buy a pool.
In his wonderful homily on the Gospel of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, our pastor addressed the young first Communicants and told them that they were about to receive the greatest gift they will ever receive—Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This gift, he told the children, is better than getting a great job or being admitted to a great school. None of those gifts will make life any less short. By contrast, the gift of God himself in the Eucharist makes life eternal.