One of the advantages of getting old is the slow but unstoppable change of perspective age induces. When I was younger, the afterlife was for me (though by the Grace of God I have always believed in God) something so far removed into the future as to make the prospective of death an extremely remote one; something you know, about rather feel about.
Where I am now, the prospective is already rather different. I am now most certainly well past half of my existence, which means that the Day of Reckoning has now become for me an event I can see in the future in light of my past experience, because it will fall upon me in a shorter time that the one that has passed since my childhood. When one reflects about this little mathematical exercise, one begins to experience the Last Four Things as something very concrete, almost palpable. It is there, it is approaching rapidly, it is something I can easily measure with my own experience. I am, in fact,,well on my way towards it. The sobering thoughts this simple calculation provokes are in themselves enough to let one consider the aging process a very salutary one.
In a way, you can compare our perspective with investments. A long-term investment expecting to yield results in 60 or 70 years would be considered unattractive by most individual investors; when you reduce the temporal investment to perhaps 20 or 30 years, things change already. Continuing the comparison with investments, becoming old one understands how astonishingly good is the investment is that Jesus’ death on the Cross has made possible for us. There is no risk of default on the interest payment; you know there will never be a bankruptcy or “chapter 11” to destroy in all or in part your equity; the yield offered is infinite (as in: infinite) compared to your initial investment in time and effort, and the sovereign risk is clearly zero.
The deal is so good, that through the indulgences you get a huge rebate even on the (late) paying of your equity investment. Last but not least, one does not need to be smart. Provided one are disciplined in making deposits in one’s investment accounts (Mass attendance, of course; regular confession; a lively prayer life; and the Rosary, the Rosary!) one does not need to be proficient in the matter, and in fact I do believe many servants, labourers and peasants of old have obtained a much better yield than their more sophisticated, perhaps more intelligent masters and landowners.
As you get old, things start falling into place. Injustices and abuses (of which this existence is full) or even the thousands apparently blind inequalities of this world (the one is born intelligent, the other stupid; the one attractive, the other ugly; the one rich, the other poor; I could go on for very long) are seen in the different perspective of the return on investment I have just considered: painful as it is to be poor, or mistreated, or befallen by misfortunes one has not seen coming and cannot be held responsible for, these pains open the doors of an investment club of unimaginable prosperity, and the “equity investment” one makes with its own suffering and misfortunes properly employed (that is: invested in Christ, rather than in hatred or even self-pity) are by far the best opportunity he’ll ever have in life, and might well make him more prosperous in heaven, and more prosperous for all eternity, than many others who simply never found the means or the will to make a comparable investment in their eternal happiness.
This thinking puts, by the way, the usual secular thinking of “if there is a God, why am I so stupid” (or other disgraces) in perspective. The boy who died in a trench during WWI hasn’t really “lost” so much; actually, perhaps he has, just because he died to protect his Country and loved ones, actually made a great gain; similarly, the hard existence of generations of poor peasants bearing with Christian spirit an entire life of, one can easily imagine, abuse and humiliation will very probably rank higher, in the Celestial order, of those of us who manage to escape hell and can bring to the party not much more than a comfortable existence as, say, obnoxious bloggers banging on a keyboard with a fresh glass of orange juice, and classical music in the background.
Seen in this perspective, this life is like a huge opportunity open to everyone, and where more often than not the lack of opportunities here below may lead to an increase in “investment” opportunities concerning the other world.
You might say – and you would be right – this is all very well-known at least since the Beatitudes; but I do think that the older we get, the more the concept of accumulating treasures in heaven takes more defined contours, as the Day of Reckoning slowly but constantly warns us of its approach.