You can’t write your obituary you can only live it – Saturday, the third week in Easter – Acts 9:31-42/ John 6:60-69

What will your obituary read? Understandably obituaries are an expensive affair and words have to be measured. Even so, would your obituary read as powerfully as the obituary of Tabitha’s in today’s text? She is described as a disciple and the only person in the New Testament mentioned by name as a disciple.

But she is also described as a woman ‘devoted to good works.’ This tells us that she did not flirt with some form of Lenten acts of kindness or a Christmas-time charity outreach; she is devoted to good works and for her it is a way of life. Even more, she is described as a woman who is devoted to her charity, one that is seen not only in the words of our text but by the mourning of the people in Joppa who wash her body and weep unabashedly at her demise.

This text is brief but effusive in describing this disciple. But the text also leaves some more clues and we need to examine it like a forensic examiner. For example, we are told that when Tabitha dies, her body is washed and laid in ‘the upper room.’ The upper room could well read as a modest modern-day mansion of our times. Archaeology has shown us that ‘upper rooms’ were few and far between and indicative of wealth. What is also interesting is that she is not mentioned as the wife of some man or that she is a widow. This means we have a rather rich spinster who is devoted to charity and good works.

Losing a loved one is hard, losing a breadwinner or a benefactor is harder because it’s not one life lost, it could well be the death of several more. Tabitha was a provider; not just from the copper coins in her pocket but surely the shekels from her savings. The fact that the town of Joppa mourns her enough to send two disciples to fetch the prince of the Apostles indicates the great affection they have for her. The widows who were beneficiaries of her great love and charity weep to show Peter the tunics she had made. They were not displaying her skills as a seamstress as much as they were displaying the charity that shared.

Charity and good works are seen by many Christians as merely Lenten disciplines or Christmastide activities. Rather, it should be a way of life. The sufferings of others should not just ‘upset us’ but disturb us to the point of acting in favour of those in need. Sadly, some are only receivers while I have seen many in the Christian community for whom charity and good works are a way of life.

I have often heard obituaries of the dead at mass. Sometimes I am inclined to get up from my seat and check if the person who is being eulogized is the one in the coffin. But then there are those precious moments at a funeral when grief is not just limited to the relatives but to the whole congregation. People show up because the person who has passed away has touched the lives of many. There are stories of kindness and love that are told amidst tears of sadness.

As an end note, I want to make a comment. Take it for what it is, a comment and not a personal judgment. What you leave for your children is an inheritance that hopefully will not erupt in a battle amongst relatives on earth. What you give to the poor is charity which is rewarded in heaven.

So, to end where I began. What will your obituary be like?

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