By Ken Asel
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 8:34-9:1
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” 1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
It has been barely a month since the terrible news, a phone call that took place early one Saturday morning. The doctor was blunt: “Come immediately.” Our daughter would be released from the hospital on Monday and placed into the care of hospice nurses. Three days later I gave KD, 38 years old, the Last Rites of the Church. At 9:30 that evening she died in her mother’s arms.
KD struggled with drugs in college, but alcohol was her drug of choice. We tried to help. So did the courts, the rehab centers and her friends. Periodically, we thought she had licked this nemesis. We were wrong. One night my physician told me during a conversation in intensive care, “You know she is going to die.” I responded, “I do know.” She chose to lose her life rather than to save it.
What does Jesus mean when he talks about losing our lives? Some 2,000 years ago he was speaking to a crowd about the value of the gift of life, life that is precious to God and that we sometimes treat cavalierly. When he spoke about “losing our lives,” he did not mean that we treat our lives as nothing, but that we know how valuable they are, and so steward them wholly toward God’s purposes, even unto death. Every day and in every way we people of the gospel are called to heal the sick, reach out to the stranger, mend those who need a new start, and ultimately remember our obligation to the everyday witness that with our Savior’s loving example, we can begin anew through Christ. We become part of those willing to join with him in making the world whole instead of hopelessly shattered.
My wife and I still pause, catch our breath, and sigh throughout the day. Tears still flow. To Christ, all lives are precious. I knew that before June 30th. I know it better now. May we all never forget in saving the lives of others, everywhere, God’s work is done.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and have recently relocated again to the West and the Front Range.
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The Diocese of the Dominican Republic (Episcopal Church)
All Souls’ Church, Oklahoma City, Okla.