Many years ago, I was invited to celebrate Mass with the Sisters of Charity (Saint Theresa of Calcutta’s Sisters). On the sacristy wall, there was a message for visiting priests: “Celebrate this Mass as if it will be your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.” That message resounded deep in my heart for the meaning of each of the words.
At this point you may be wondering why I am sharing this with you. As we approach Independence Day, the reason is simple. I believe that life and freedom are gifts and the way we live and treasure them should be in the context of these words.
First: The first time we do something—the first time we meet someone, the first time we enjoy freedom—is a moment of joy, enthusiasm and wonder that makes that moment special and that we value in a singular way. With routine activities over time, we start to lose interest and stop being amazed. Perhaps this could happen with freedom that we are so accustomed to that we may lose our appreciation of how great a gift it is. We need to live our present lives with the energy of our ancestors who first tasted freedom.
Last: When we are aware that this may be the last time we will see someone or the final time we will visit a place, we take special consideration to enjoy even the minor details, to enjoy the present, the opportunity to see someone or something for one more time. This is not a pessimistic way to see our lives, but it may be the way to contrast how we delay events, because we believe that there will always be another day. How many times do we procrastinate? How many words were not said because there is always a tomorrow?
We do not need to lose things in order to appreciate them. As happened in the beginning of Covid, we do not need to lose our freedom to appreciate the gift of liberty. Sometimes because of our busy lives, we do not have time to live and realize everything we have.
Only One: In our lives, we discover that for many things we have another opportunity, another chance; because of that, it is possible that we do not always do our best from the beginning or try to enjoy the moment in which we live. But if it is the only opportunity, we better make it right. Every moment is unique and unrepeatable. If we realize this and we live that way, then everything changes.
We are blessed with a country with many gifts. Let us treasure our freedom with the conviction of our forebears and continue to work for it with all our strength.
May God Bless America!
Father Sergio Noe Ovando is Pastor of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Catholic Church in Morgan Hill. Fr. Sergio was born in Argentina, and worked as a priest half of his life in Europe. He obtained his Doctorate in Pontifical University Gregoriana, in Rome, and served as priest for the last decade in the Dioceses of San Jose. An active member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance, Father Sergio can be reached at [email protected].