How Long Do You Expect to Live?

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

I’m not sure what prompted me to do it, but a few weeks back I sat at my computer and filled out a life expectancy calculator. Actually, I filled out several of them.

Perhaps you know what I’m talking about. A life expectancy calculator is an online tool that predicts how long you will live, barring some unforeseen incident such as an accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack. The calculator responds to information you provide, for example: vital statistics — present age, gender, height and weight; your health condition — family history of illness, any current illnesses, and medications you’re taking; and lifestyle choices — diet, smoking, drinking, use of seatbelts and sunscreen. After the information is inserted you click a button and, voila — your predicted life expectancy appears!

It can be a sobering experience. The first test I tried said that I would live to be 67 – my current age! So what does a man do when he discovers that his days are numbered, severely numbered? Well, I said an Act of Contrition, kissed my dog good-bye and had a drink. (Actually, I think, I hope, that I made a mistake somewhere in filling out the form.)

Other calculators said I would die at the age of 81, 82 or 89. “That’s better,” I said to myself with a sigh of relief. In reality though, I’m not too concerned about when I’ll die. I’ve had a very nice life, but I’m ready to move on anytime the Lord wants me.

Online gimmicks notwithstanding, though, who can really predict the day of our passing? I could live for thirty years or pass on next year. I could even go before this article gets published. Wouldn’t that be a dramatic conclusion to my writing career?

One of my favorite Scripture passages is this: “Lord, teach us to number our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (Ps 90:12)

There is great wisdom in remembering our mortality, that in fact we won’t be here forever. On a practical level, it’s good to have your earthly affairs in order. Have you made provision for your dependents? Do you have an up-to-date will? (I hope you’ve remembered the Church!) Have you made plans for your funeral and burial? All good, practical things to think about, and having your affairs in order makes your passing more peaceful for your loved ones.

But as you consider your mortality, there are more important spiritual things to consider too, and here, a good examination of conscience comes in handy. You could start by remembering the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk 10:27)

So, where do you stand in your relationship with God? Do you really love God and is he an important part of your daily life? Do you pray to him? Do you go to church to worship him? Are you grateful for your blessings? Are you separated from God by serious sin? When was the last time you went to Confession? When you stand at the Gate of Heaven will the Lord recognize you, or have you been a complete stranger?

And what about your relationship with other people? Have you loved your neighbor as yourself? Are there people, perhaps family members, friends or co-workers, from whom you’re alienated? Are you carrying anger or bitterness in your heart? Have you sought forgiveness from those you’ve offended and have you been generous in forgiving others? Have you tried to assist others during trying times and have you been charitable in helping the poor?

And while you’re examining your conscience be sure to think about the Ten Commandments. What are your sinful habits and attitudes? Are you an angry, negative, and cynical person? Are you dishonest and greedy, overly attached to money and material possessions? What about your use of speech? Are you vulgar, obscene, and uncharitable? Do you spread gossip and rumors? Do you have spiritual freedom or are you addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography or technology? Do you live the virtues of purity and chastity?

The list of items to consider in our examination of conscience is lengthy, but these are the things we’ll be accountable for when we stand before the Judgment Seat of God. Are you ready?

All of these thoughts are relevant in this season when the Church moves toward the end of the liturgical year and welcomes a new Season of Advent. Here the Church asks us to reflect upon the eschaton, the end times – the Second Coming of Christ, the Final Judgment, Heaven and Hell.

The end of the world will be frightening, Jesus promises, with signs in the sun, the moon and the stars. “Nations will be in dismay, and people will die of fright,” (Lk 21: 25-26) Jesus warns. But Christians can also look forward to the final days with hope and confident expectation. We will “run forward to meet our Christ with righteous deeds at his coming,” we pray on the First Sunday of Advent.

So, how long do you expect to live? But more importantly, are you ready to meet Christ when he comes in glory, or even tomorrow if you die?

As for my life expectancy, I really don’t care what the charts say. I’m going to live forever, because I believe in Christ.