Have you ever had a close-to-death experience? I’ve had a couple of them. Believe me, they are nothing pleasant. One of them happened not so long ago when I visited my family in Mexico in December 2016. At that time I had just professed my first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This was my first time home since I left for the Legion of Christ’s Novitiate near Munich, Germany, back in late 2014. After enjoying a family evening at my grandma’s in Parras, (North West Mexico), we headed back to Saltillo, where my family lives. The drive takes little more than two hours. It was late, and it was dark outside. My parents, my three siblings and I were having a great time in the car when all of a sudden a truck coming towards us tried to pass another truck. Everyone in the car became silent as we watched the two trucks speeding at us, occupying the road’s two lanes. To make things worse, there was no shoulder on that section of the road. This means there was no way we could dodge them without getting out of the road. At 60 mph. I didn’t have time to think anything. I just waited for the crash to happen. My brother Andrés pressed the break wildly. The lights of both trucks blinded us, and our car made a sudden and harsh zig-zag movement. Inside the car, we moved back and forth and to the sides like puppets dancing all at the same time. Then it was over. My heart was beating so hard. What had happened? Somehow, my brother had managed to dodge the trucks. Up to this day, I don’t know how he did it or what happened during those few intense seconds. What I know is that, with God’s help, my brother saved us from a deathly front collision. He saved us from death.
Reflecting back on that moment, I realize that then and there death became a very concrete reality for me. Then and there, I realized it was over. No more time. No more time. Time’s up. One day, time will be up for you. You, I, your best friend and today’s newborn babies, we’ll all run out of time. When? No one knows. We can only see the lower part of our lives’ and watch. All I can tell you is that every second that goes by is a second less in the upper part of your watch.
Recently I read a short story about a family that suddenly had to face death. The story is titled “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, by Flannery O’Connor. Quick summary for those who haven’t read it: A family (since they don’t have a last name, I’ll call them “The Smiths”) goes out for a trip from Georgia to Florida. On the way, they have a car accident, but survive, only to be found and killed by three criminals who recently escaped prison. Unexpected ending? The Smiths did not expect death either. They were not prepared for it. A line at the end of the story impressed me deeply. The Misfit, one of the murderers, says about Gradma: She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life. What did he mean with that? Reading the story can help understand. Once you read it, you realize that Grandma had a superficial life. However, she behaved in a quite virtuous way in the last moments of her life, when she had to face the Misfit’s gun. The Misfit meant that, had she known her time could end at every moment, she would have led a better life. What would you do, if you knew your life will end half an hour after reading this article? How would you spend your last 30 minutes? How do you use your time?
We Regnum Christi people value time as a gift from God, the period to fulfill our mission. Our handbook speaks about the good use of time. We say Time is Kingdom. If you visited my seminary in Cheshire, you could hear Fr. Andrew, a novices’ formator, singing during kitchen work: With passion and zeal do more in less time for Christ, for Christ! How are you using the precious time you have? The precious minutes that God has given you to love him and do his will, the time to merit heaven? Time does not come back. That’s why we want to do as much as we can, as well as we can, in the shortest time possible, to help establish Christ’s kingdom. I’ll let you go so you can keep doing what you were up to. But allow me to ask you one last question. Is that, what you’re about to do worth your time? Your precious, never-returning, heaven-meriting time? If not, forget about it and go do something better. Something worth it. For as long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. (John 9:4)