A few years ago, I heard a young person say “Yolo!” I asked her what that meant, and she answered: “You Only Live Once.” Afterwards, I did what everyone does today: I Googled it, and I found out that there are at least two different interpretations: One was an invitation to enjoy life, living the moment (similar to the Latin expression, Carpe diem): taking a risk, because there will not be another opportunity; the second meaning was a way to excuse oneself for making a bad choice: do not worry too much.. because you only live once.
I was amazed that even Catholic young people tweet and mention this in their conversations. The reason for my amazement is because our lives are given to us for higher purpose, a purpose that is for eternity. I believe many have forgotten this.
Today’s gospel reminds us of this the dual aspect of one’s life: the reality of this world and the consequences of what we do here in the life to come. This is something we cannot neglect, because while it is true that we only live once, it is also true that we will live eternally.
The present time is important because it gives us the opportunity to do things, to enjoy, to love, to care, but we also need to be conscious that what we do in this life counts for eternity. In the same way, that the choices we make in our youth affect our future as adults.
Please do not get confused when you read the gospel; the rich man was not condemned because he was rich; neither was Lazarus because he was poor. Each was saved or condemned by his own actions. The action or inaction of the rich man is obvious to us, for he ignores those in need around him, even at his very door. We do not know what the poor man did to obtain his place in the bosom of Abraham.
The meaning for us is this: for us to live our lives just trying to enjoy them is not enough, not only because it does not last in this life, but also because living life without the perspective of eternity cannot fill our hearts. Only the life that is lived in its fullness can bring true happiness and fulfillment. As Saint Augustine wrote: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
It is true that we live only once, for that reason we have to make the best of that. In a sacristy in a church in Avila (and I have seen the same words in every sacristy of the Sisters of Charity – Saint Teresa of Kolkata’s sisters), these words surround the crucifix on the wall: “Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.” The same applies to all of us: every day, live in the fullness of your strength, and in commitment to what you believe.
Imagine, if we could achieve that, how much our lives would change, how changed our parish and the whole world would be because even if we were the only ones (you and I), we could change our world by the way we live: knowing that it is only one life, but a life that will indeed continue into eternity.