Tired after a rather busy day in the parish, I decided to go out for dinner (by myself) to a nearby oriental restaurant. I was seated at a table in very close proximity to a youthful couple. We might as well have been sitting at the same table; we were so close to each other. They appeared to be much too young to be married. They had a bit of that twinkle in the eyes that said that they were quite interested in each other romantically.
There I was, minding my own business. I could not but hear their entire conversation as I pretended to look at and play with my Smartphone. They discussed various matters—most of which seemed to me like just-getting-to-know-you small talk.
Then my interest was piqued. The young fellow informed his date: “You know there are no U-Hauls in a funeral procession.” Hey wait a minute! That’s a line that I have often used! Where did he hear this? (I had “borrowed” the phrase from a talk I heard Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR give many years ago.) Where was this guy going with his conversation?
He continued as I rather nonchalantly listened more intently. “I guess life means that we try to experience as many good, happy things as we possibly can for as long as we can. We don’t know when it is all going to end.” I waited for some additional “wisdom” about an afterlife. I hoped that there would be some mention of God and of a divine plan for us all. No such luck. This was not forthcoming. I recalled the phrase: Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die! Is life solely about trying to experience as many good, happy things as we can before we die?
The couple came to mind later that night as I could not readily fall to sleep. With continued restlessness and perhaps a bit of insomnia, I turned on the TV for a brief moment. I stumbled upon a spoof of the 70’s-80’s band Kansas singing their hit song Dust in the Wind on a late-night show. “All we are is dust in the wind . . . everything is dust in the wind.”
What was I hearing God say to me today through all of this? Without a sense of purpose and direction given to us by our Christian faith, the meaning of life remains unknown, or becomes lost or distorted. As Christians, we should realize that we are not merely dust in the wind but rather divinely created beings in God’s image and likeness. Life’s main purpose is not simply to experience as many good, happy things as possible, but to try to know, love and serve a God who loved us into existence and wants us to be with Him for all eternity. The message of the Gospel is good news for a reason. It is meant to give us hope as we realize meaning, purpose and direction in life. We are given the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ!
I was tempted to interject my thoughts into the couple’s dinner conversation that evening. In the end, I resisted. They didn’t realize that I was listening, that I was a priest and I didn’t want to give them indigestion on their date.
On the other hand, maybe I should have given them some unsolicited food for thought!
Fr. Ed Namiotka