Anthropologists; who are experts in the study of man as far as his beginnings, developments, customs and beliefs are concerned, are still to explore fully the experience of ‘what it is to be human’.
That experience of a fulfilled man is scientifically hard to elaborate. On the other hand, artists give us that picture in a rather simpler way.
In the song ‘Test Of Time’ by Petra, this fundamental question to the meaningfulness of man’s existence is elaborated in beautiful but catchy words: It’s the test of choices that you have to make.
It’s what you’re doin’and how you’re living. It is how you’re spending the time you’re given. Tomorrow is the chance that may not come. ..Your own test of time has begun. In a few words, this artist tells us what anthropologists and theologians would tell us in volumes of books about the value of human life and its destiny.
The above song gives us a golden lesson: The choices that we make in life, the priorities that we adopt in our life, what we do and whatever we are, and the way we spend our time now, all will make sense depending on how our life will have passed the test of time.
This is the test that shall determine whether or not our life has been in accordance to what we were created for. Many medical personnel testify to have assisted a number of patients as they stand before the judgement of time.
It is hard to find better words than the ones used by Leo Tolstoy, in his short novel called “The death of Ivan Ilych.”
Ivan ILych, the main character in the novel, had lived a kind of life that you and me would call successful. His prestigious job as a lawyer earned him sufficient income to purchase the things he wanted.
His family was both admired and respected by his peers. All of a sudden, the world turned up-side down for Ivan. He had a terminate disease.
Doctors and his relatives did not want to discuss that unfortunate incident with him. Ivan started feeling that he had already become an embarrassment and a bother to them all including his own children.
Ivan’s life was standing the test of time. He used his last strength to turn towards the wall, and then, as most wise people would do, he asked himself this painful question: “What if my whole life has been wrong?”
It required him a lot of energy to dismiss this question. But the question would not go away. In fact, Ivan had done a lot of right things in his life, save to ask himself this essential question earlier on in life when he had the choice, as the song above says.
He was standing alone in front of the test of time. How shall we live in a way that prepares us to pass this test of time?
Jesus gives us the answer: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies it produces much fruit.”
And he adds these bracing words, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (Jn.12:24-25)
Jesus did not mean to belittle the principle of self-preservation in order to foster the principle of self-destruction; he was rather underlining the principle of self-renunciation and the capacity to get the priorities right in our earthly life.
That is why on the final Sunday before Holy Week, the Church uses these words of Jesus to teach us that following Jesus is not about making the world a better place.
Nor is it about improving one’s life. No, following Jesus is a matter of life or death; and this is the bottom line on which we shall stand the test of time.