The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them "the acceptable time . . . the day of salvation." It inspires a holy fear of God . . . . (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1041)
Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)
Exhaustion swept over me. It had been a long day at Disneyland with my young children, and I looked forward to plopping into bed at our motel room. As we stood on the corner waiting for the light to change, a red convertible raced past us and someone on the passenger side shot at me with a high-pressure water rifle. I looked up in time to hear my assailant shout, "Bang, Bang. You’re dead."
It happened so quickly I never had time to think about ducking for cover and protecting my kids. For a moment I stood motionless and incredulous. Did that really happen? Did he really shoot me? I looked at my shirt. Yes, he did. I was soaked.
Several emotions swelled within me. None were kind. I clenched my fists and glared at the tail lights disappearing into the collage of vehicles now at the other end of the block. I considered giving chase, but realized I'd never outrun them, and besides, I didn't know what I would have done if I caught up with the guy – or what he might have further done to me if I had. So I stood there, fuming and frustrated - until the full weight of what could have happened settled over me. When it did, anger gave way to fear. My shirt could be saturated with my blood instead of water. I rubbed my hand across my chest. I could be lying dead on the pavement.
And then, inexplicably, as I stood there on the corner, the oddest sense of calm settled over me. No, “calm” does not faithfully describe the emotion that flooded into my mind. Comfort is a better word. Or maybe peace.
Let me explain.
Many years earlier I made a disturbing discovery about myself. I came face to face with the truth that my life was a cacophony of excuses and lies, rebellion, selfishness, and arrogance. I cringed to realize who I really was and how many people I had hurt.
At the same time, I made another discovery. Despite my sin, God loved me. Despite my willful defiance, God offered me forgiveness. Despite my rebellion, He offered me a new relationship as a son with a Father. All I had to do was take the first step and apologize to Him for my many sins, follow Him in the waters of baptism, and invite Jesus to be Lord of my life. I could hardly believe it all could be true.
But it was.
In December 1972 God opened for me the floodgates of His love. I knew instinctively that He wiped the slate of my past absolutely clean, adopted me into His great Family and made me His child. He promised through the Scripture I would never be alone in my heartaches because He would be with me wherever I was and through whatever I endured. But best of all, He gave me His unalterable oath that when my life on earth ends, I will live with Him in His eternal kingdom.
Had that water been lead, I would have awakened in a place where there is no more death, no more tears, no more heartache, no more fear, no more separation, and no more loss.
God used a street corner “wet-down” to sharpen my focus. A drive-by shooting, an accidental fall . . . death can strike in an instant. I am grateful to Him that I do not have to worry about making last-moment decisions about eternity.