A certain scribe, impressed by Our Lord’s preaching, expressed a desire to follow him after his father passed on. Knowing that the man’s father had years to go, and knowing that before his father’s death, the scribe would have forgotten his good intentions, Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.”
We are like that scribe when we want to do more good things in this life, but with other things to do first, and feeling that we have all the time in the world; we put off doing those good things. Next thing we know, the time is up on us, and all we have to our credit are great acts of kindness we never got around to.
That situation makes me think of Michelangelo’s painting of the Last Judgment over the altar in the Sistine Chapel. At the top of he scene the triumphant Christ is gathering the blessed ones around him, and at the bottom of the painting the damned are being ferried across to hell. The center of the scene shows active devils carrying souls down to destruction. One of those souls, more body than soul, is grasped around his thighs by a joyful green devil who is hauling him down. What is most striking about that poor fellow is the look of surprised horror on his face. He seems to greatly regret not getting around to the good things he meant to do in this life.