On this spiritual journey of faith that is full of good companions and exciting activities, the Good Lord is constantly sending people my way: people whose hearts He has touched in one way or another; good followers of Christ who work with me to spread the Gospel; friends whose lives and mine are in some ways intertwined because we share the same passion about the Catholic faith and the Church, or we have a good fit in personality, or we can engage in discussions meaningful and intelligible to each other. I accept it as part of my ministry to interact and care for these people whom God brings into my life and makes them special to me. This morning I had a good chat over coffee with a church friend who had retired only a month ago. After a brief exchange of pleasantries and a cursory review of a project we were working on, our attention quickly turned to her life after retirement, for which I gave her a special greeting card containing a note I hastily scribbled before coming to the meeting as follows:
Retirement is not about golfing and cruise trips; it’s rather one’s last chance for self-emptying and complete self-giving.
This pretty well sums up how I see retirement. It is no “piece of cake”, no time for “enjoying life” (if enjoying life is understood as indulging in earthly pleasures), no more time to waste. It’s our last chance to make up for past errors and failures; to catch up on below expectation progress; to make life fulfilling and meaningful. It is make or break; it is dead serious. As we cruise into our twilight years, many of us have failed to achieve the only goal that counts: living a fulfilling and meaningful life. Older but hopefully wiser, bruised but hopefully tougher, we must make up for lost ground before the last flicker of light disappears on us and leaves us in complete darkness.
Four years ago, I decided that my life had reached a new crossroads, and that God’s will was for me to enter into a new level of self-emptying and self-giving. (See My Early Retirement Story - a 5-part series on this blog.) I accepted the challenge – hence my decision to take early retirement. In four years of retirement, I was totally unencumbered by the daily chores and earthly obligations necessitated by one’s need to make a living. Have I been able to make good use of this special privilege from God? Retirement is an invitation to love in a deeper way, to give with greater generosity, and to do God's will with utmost urgency. What have I done in response to God’s invitation? What progress, if any, have I made to enable my inner self to become smaller – small as a child - as my physical self continues to age as an adult? How well have I fared in achieving the lofty ideals that God requires of me – complete self-emptying, complete self-giving? Retirement, after all, is a blessing; not in the sense that now we can indulge in earthly pleasures that we couldn't have while working, as people are often inclined to believe, but in the sense that God has graciously granted us a second chance to do what many of us have failed to do - living in complete sanctification.
These are tough, tough questions to answer. But answer them I must; if not now, then certainly on the day of reckoning before God. If I can’t answer them well today, I won’t be able to answer them any better when kneeling in front of the judgment seat of Christ. Trust me, I ask myself these questions almost everyday, especially in those reflective moments at the Too Good Pond (see article on this blog on Too Good Pond). They are the reason why I do what I do in my retirement. Retirement, after all, is serious business!