Lenten Reflection: If not now, when?

Mar. 19, 2023

“….he showed them the full extent of his love.”  John 13: 1

My wife winked at me.

“Should we do it?”

I volleyed her invitation with an affirming nod. Pulling it off would take a small miracle.

First, the front door security guard needed to be bribed. My last Boston cream doughnut could do the job. The tending nurse needed to break protocol. Pam could pull that off. This was our moment. If not now, when?

I departed for the front door wearing my Cheshire Cat smile and extending my Dunkin’ Donuts bag. Pam headed for the nurses’ station. I uttered a quick prayer.

12 minutes later, we wheeled our 92-year-old friend, Paul, out the front door to our running minivan. Ankle bracelet successfully disconnected. Hospital garments replaced with civilian clothes. Everything according to plan. Just a short drive to the local pub.

“A double cheeseburger,” asserted my acerbic friend, loud enough for every patron in the restaurant to turn their heads.

“Extra bacon. Triple cheese. French fries,” he continued. “Be sure to bring the gin and tonic first.”  My arteries harden as I listened.

Chuckling and armed with her Bic pen, the waitress wistfully jotted the order.

“You know, they don’t serve me G & T’s at the home anymore,” barked Paul. “Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last burger I ate.”

Paul was my friend for 32 years. A mentor. An encourager. An editor. A board chair who taught me Robert’s Rules, the importance of transparency and the necessity of accurate minutes. His unsolicited advice still visits my conscience: “The first order of any board meeting is to either fire or keep the CEO.” Fortunately he never fired me.

Now—in his waning days on earth—he battled early dementia and other health issues accompanying a tired, 92-year-old body. But after his first tonic and a few bites of greasy beef, he returned to the Paul I knew and loved. The stories flowed. Our laughter rose above the clanking plates and fading background noise of disappearing diners. We closed the place.

After finishing our calorie-laden chocolate sundaes, we drove Paul back to his extended care unit, tucked him into bed and said our goodbyes. This would be our last meal together. Our last supper, so to speak. A memory I cherish. We broke the rules. No regrets.

Recently I read an essay, causing some reflection. Talking about the sudden death of a brother, the author wrote:

“One of my brothers died a few years ago, and the event has completely changed me. I now start every decision with a question:

If not now, when?”

He continued: “His death has infused my living with urgency and clarity. There is no time or space for fear or indecision. There is no time or space for wasted days and wasted years. I must now live, now, fully, ferociously….”  Good words for our Lenten journey.

We’ll never know the time and day of our last supper. So why not seize every ordinary moment?

Even Jesus took time to have a final meal with his followers. Remember? Sensing his imminent arrest and death, he paused to have a meal and show his friends “…..the full extent of his love.” In that tumultuous and stressful moment, I wonder if Jesus asked himself, “if not now, when?”

And yet that final supper became an epic and important event in the life of the Christian tradition. It’s the meal where we meet the humility of Jesus as he washes the feet of his disciples. It’s the meal where we meet the forgiveness of Jesus as he extends a hand of friendship to those who will betray him. It’s the meal where we meet the self-emptying of Jesus as he gives himself completely away to the will of God. It’s the meal where we meet the heart of Jesus and enter mystical communion with a diverse community of brothers and sisters who break the bread, and drink the wine, together—yesterday, today, tomorrow.

A lot happened at the last supper. I’m glad it happened. Likewise, go and share the full extent of your love. If not now, when?

Blessings –

Bruce Main
President and Founder