There comes a time when others in one’s age bracket seem to be dying right and left.  Oh, they may be five years younger, or five years older, but famous people, friends and acquaintances not far from my age are leaving this vale of tears.  It’s a case of now you see them, now you don’t.  It gives one pause.

These passings bring to mind intimations of immortality along the way.  Like the time at a charismatic conference in Providence when we are asked to reach out to the person next to us and sing, “Here I am, Lord…I have heard you calling… I will go, Lord, if you lead me,” as a prayer.  The woman at my right rested in the spirit in my arms.  Later she asked me if the Lord had revealed anything to me.  “No,” I said.  “I guess the Lord is working in his mysterious ways.”  We kissed, lip to lip, looking into each other’s eyes.  I did not know her from Eve and never saw her again.  A sob welled up within me from some subterranean place which I stifled, not being used to such intensity of feeling.  What was the source of this deepseated existential angst?  Some longing for what was not?  Some grieving for lost love?  Or a yearning for a time and a place where people really love one another?  The whole experience was a cause for wonder,  I had capacities I had not suspected.

Consider my “born-again” experience.  Always a “good” Catholic, I started to say the rosary every night because the mother of God had asked for rosaries.  One night before bedtime I was having trouble concentrating–the television was too loud and I was tired.  Suddenly my mind focused on the words of the Lord’s prayer I was saying, and especially  on the words, “Thy will be done.”  For the first time I really meant what I was saying, Thy will be done, come what may.  I was flooded by a feeling which I immediately identified as sweetness although I had never had such a feeling before.  “Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.”  It was a gift to be always remembered and never recaptured.  But it showed me another capacity I did not know I had.

Capacities for sorrow!  Capacities for in-filling!  What else?  We are remarkable creatures with possibilities only hinted at in this world.  “Eye has not seen nor ear heard…nor the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”  (I Cor. 2:9)  “Now we are children of God but what we will be has not yet been made known….but we shall be like him.”  (1 John 3:2)

A baby in the womb has no idea why he has a mouth and eyes and hands and feet.  He cannot begin to imagine that one day he may speak and sing, enjoy art and nature, work and dance, and a myriad of things that are only possible when he moves on to the next stage in his life.  Likewise, we in this valley of tears cannot imagine what it will be like when our capacity for love is filled.

St. Thomas Aquinas, we all know, was a genius with such a gift for logic and reasoning about his Catholic faith that he filled volumes with his insights and was named a Doctor of the Church.  Toward the end of his life it is said he had a mystical experience after which he considered what he had written as “all straw.”  Not that it was wrong, mind you, but that it didn’t begin to reflect the realities which God had made him understand in a mystical way.

What has God prepared for those who love him?  I look forward to finding out.  Don’t you?