In this life there are many things to prepare for, but the most important is for our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. I will take you with me, should you want to come along, on my personal journey to the door which will lead to eternity, through which every soul must pass. Where the angel of death waits to ask the all important question, "Are you prepared for the Kingdom?"

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Location: Anacortes, Washington, United States

Two years ago I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was one of the fortunate ones who survived surgery along with chemo/radiation treatments. Recently, it was discovered that the cancer had returned and although I am again on chemotherapy, in all probability I have perhaps one more year to live. During these last months I would like to share what I have learned about the most important thing we'll ever do in this life and that is, prepare for the kingdom of God.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Making the Choice

About a week ago I was faced with making a very important choice. I guess you could say it was a choice which would determine the length of my life.

After putting my mind and body through about a month of rapid physical decline, I needed to decide if I truly wanted to spend the rest of this short time I have left in this horrible condition. I am speaking mainly of the side effects of chemotherapy as well as the additional problems created by my collapsed lung episode.

I woke up last Friday morning knowing it was time to decide just how I wanted to die. Was I going to take this into my own hands and continue therapy or was I going to let God select the perfect day for my departure and allow myself to experience "quality life."

What really made the choice clear was the fact that under these conditions I could not have a spiritual life and that was simply unacceptable. How could I give up everything that I had focused my life on for the past three years? Prayer and contemplation would cease to exist for me because this treatment not only kills cancer cells, but brain cells, causing the mind to become incapable of thinking or focusing. How could I allow my body to deteriorate to the point of not being able to get out of bed, which would mean no more daily Liturgy, no more daily receiving of the Sacred Mysteries. And for what? To possibly live a few months longer. If this is the type of life I would be living, then the answer is obvious. NO MORE TREATMENT!

I refuse to give up the only things that will prepare me for the Kingdom. This body is going to die and go the way of all flesh, but my soul is going to live and it must be nourished until my last breath.

Although this was an obvious choice, it was still a little difficult to make. In our humanity it is still not easy to accept death. But this is what makes our living life only to prepare for the Kingdom so vitally important. Nurturing the spiritual life of the soul is the only thing that matters especially when death is just around the corner. There is nothing else to contemplate. Denial is not an option. This is reality. Let us face it with faith and hope in the One who says, trust Me. I will never leave you. "In my Father's house are many rooms, I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you may also be."

There is still much for me to do before that special day arrives. So I need to get myself up and functional again. Then and only then can I hear the words of the Lord. Then and only then can I respond to his Divine Will.

"Let those who have ears to hear, hear."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The One Thing Needed

I would like to start with a question for you. When you woke up this morning, what was the one thing you thought of that you simply had to do today. More importantly, have you done it? Then ask yourself, if I die today, will it matter?

I'm a little slow in starting this post because I had a little unexpected trip to take. Two weeks ago, I went in to have a small device surgically placed near my left collar bone underneath my skin to accomodate my chemotherapy treatments. I will spare you the details involved, but those of you who have or have had one of these know what I'm referring to.

Anytime something is surgically placed in your body, there are always risks. Some are rare. One of the rare risks in my situation was the possibility that while trying to find the correct passage to the artery my lung might be accidentally punctured, causing it eventually to collapse. Well guess what, again I made it into the lucky few who could take part in this experience and live to tell about it.

As I was lying in my hospital bed waiting for the doctor to come in and do what needed to be done to inflate my lung, again I'll spare you the details, I called my best friend Abbot Joseph to tell him of my current fate. Since I was at a loss as to how to break this news to him, after the emotional roller coaster ride I've put him through over the last two years, I simply said, I have two words for you "Redemptive Suffering." To my complete surprise and astonishment, he replied, "Milk it for all that it's worth."

For those of you who understand the meaning of redemptive suffering, I hope you find the humor in this. I certainly did. But in that humor was a joy so indescribable that it lifted me above what could have been unbearable. Such is the joy of redemptive suffering. Such is the love of God.

And for those of you who are wondering, what in the world is redemptive suffering, I will try to explain it in my simple terms, for I am in no way a scholar or theologian.

Redemptive Suffering is simply taking the one thing needed, your suffering, and offering it as a sacred act to God. Uniting it with the Cross of Christ who suffered and laid down His life freely to once again unite us with the Father. When we consciously choose to do this we give a value to our present suffering condition that we cannot imagine.

How do I know this? Well, because since I have chosen to turn my unpleasant condition into a sacred offering to God, I have had the ability to come through this trial in ways that I know I simply could not do as a human being. However, this does not come without preparation. Never did it enter my mind as I was making life changing choices three years ago that they would be so instrumental in how I would endure life today. Never did I think I would be on the brink of death within such a short time. Never did I even contemplate death.

It is a great mistake to think that death is far off in the distance, so far away that when we wake up in the morning it does not even enter our minds. It is a fact of life that we see around us everyday, but somehow the mind manages to block out it's reality and we prefer to believe in the illusion that we will live in this life forever. Until we come out of this deception, we cannot live!

So what does God in his incredible mercy do, He gives us suffering to remind us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. He says look, your time is short, so why don't you start thinking about preparing for the moment when I will demand your life. It's not a hard thing to do. Just start being real about who and what you are so that when you suddenly find yourself in My presence you won't be so surprised and look so terrified. When you see Me, I would like you to be relieved that you no longer have to wonder about what My Will is, you will just know, like the angels know and you will desire nothing else. But if you've wasted your time looking after yourself and your own personal needs and haven't really prepared for death, which is the only sure thing in this life, then you will be trapped by your own wants and needs and will be sad to discover that I don't have those things to offer you. Then I can't help you.

So seek first the Kingdom of God and the wealth of his righteousness, for wherever your treasure lies, there will you find your heart. These are words from the one who knows, who was with the Father and is with the Father. He calls to us, follow me. In these words I hear the call to Redemptive Suffering, the one thing needed, truly the most sacred act we can offer to the God of Love in our preparation for the kingdom.