Today is my birthday. It marks for me almost (notice almost) a half of a century. One could say that this is over the hill. However, if I live to be 100 then I am approaching the summit. On the other hand, no one knows where on the hill one might be standing at any particular time. For some the hill top is in the rear view mirror. God only knows.
I am the same age as Whitney Houston. Unfortunately, we all recently learned that she had passed on. She hit her summit years ago and in recent years she struggled in the valley below due to addictions. Little did we know how short her life would be. She was an icon of my generation. Just like Michael Jackson was. These very young talented people plucked from the prime of their life. My kids ask me, why do all of these famous persons die so young? The truth of the matter is that many celebrities throughout time have died young. It is their death that draws our attention. It was even more shocking to learn that my kids had not heard of Whitney Houston; however they recognized her songs.
I do believe that it is true– many of the good die young. Perhaps this is why I might get a chance to grow old! I have known some very saintly persons who have died young from cancer, unforeseen accidents, and tragedies. Some others cut their lives short from hard living and extreme risk taking. Some live as though they believe in no hell.
I think that our culture is plagued by substance abuse and addictions. Although every age has had its own version, our time has even evolved into having “designer drugs.” It would depend on what camp I subscribed to as to whether or not I viewed such to be a disease or even an attack of the devil. In some respects, addictions most definitely take on the character of a disease which can affect a person emotionally, physically and even spiritually. However, I take a step back before I say that a person who has an addiction is an addict. To give someone a label is pathologizing and even pinning them into a category that takes on a self-fulfilling quality. I would like to believe that no matter how difficult a situation might be, a person can overcome through the help of God.
Today, February 15, is the Feast Day of St. Claude de la Columbiere. What makes this saint particularly interesting is that he was the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary, the founder of the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I have had the opportunity to visit Paray-le-Monial , the town in France from where these two great Saints came. This is particularly relevant to my above point. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is precisely the message that no matter how difficult our lives might be, the love of Jesus can overcome. This devotion is for all people of our time who are afflicted by the challenges of modern life. Our time is plagued on so many fronts.
The refrain from the Psalm 15 in today’s Mass states: Who shall live on Your Holy Mountain, O Lord? I am for mountain tops. Not so much for going over the hill and hanging out in the valleys. However, all of us most definitely will find the valley. The older I get the more I believe that the aging process is God’s last ditch effort to help one become more humble! What can make a person more humble than losing one’s school girl figure, increasingly aching joints, and obtaining a forgetful brain? It is all the more opportunity to join these sufferings to those of Jesus on the Cross. So as I age and reach for another ibuprofen, hopefully I will learn to become humble once and for all.