A movie from several years ago called Dead Poets Society features Robin Williams as an English teacher who expands his students' horizons, exhorting them to "seize the day," to make the most of the one life they have been given.
The teacher's unusual methods capture the imagination of his students, even if the authorities at the prep school are not amused. The young men in his charge learn to explore the gift of life in a way they had never done before.
The movie's title comes from the secret society Keating introduced his students to, reading poems by poets long dead as a way to seize every day of their own lives. Their lives are changed forever by their encounter with Mr. Keating.
Our lives, too, are changed forever by our encounter with Jesus Christ.
We, too, belong to a society, but not a secret one, not one dedicated to "dead" men. We belong to what can most properly be called the "Living Apostles Society," the Church. What we believe is open for all to enjoy. What we have experienced we are called to share with everyone.
In the Gospel, when Jesus asks his apostles who people say he is, Peter answers, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus, the Son of the Living God, the Christ, the Anointed One, is the key to the Living Apostles Society of the Church of which we are a part. He is the Head, we are the members of the Body of Christ.
"To him be glory forever," cries Paul, who even then was "already being poured out like a libation." Both Peter and Paul are examples of the living apostles which we, too, are called to be in our lives. We, too, must witness to Christ! We, too, must let Christ pour us out for the salvation of others.
"Don't let your poems be ordinary," Mr. Keating teaches his students in class. Jesus taught his apostles never to let their faith be ordinary, their words of witness, their deeds of bringing the Gospel to others. No, the gift of the evangelization we have received can never be ordinary if we are to seize the mission entrusted to us, if we are to be seized by Christ.
Only the love of our God who became a man, who died on the cross and rose to new life, can empower us to seize the day - every day. Only by fixing our eyes on Christ and the kingdom of his Father can we seize every moment to make the Gospel real for others. Only by opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit can we allow God to seize us and never let us go.
Therein is the key. The God of love has seized us, and will never let us go. We belong to him, now and forever. So seize today and every day. Grab hold of eternity.
Fr. John G. Stillmank is pastor of St. Andrew Parish, Verona, and St. William Parish, Paoli.