Two historic figures finished their race last week.

Norma McCorvey (who was the ‘Roe’ in Roe v. Wade) and Michael Novak (who was a theologian, author, ambassador and economist) crossed over from this life to the next. They are now in the hands of God.

It would be difficult to find two people who led more different lives. Norma McCorvey is remembered more for what she did wrong — and that unintentionally — than anything she accomplished. Michael Novak has a list of accomplishments as long as his 83 years. One was a glittering jewel in the Catholic Who’s Who. The other lived as much of her life a thing-person who was used far more than she was respected.

Their lives were very different, but they went to their particular judgments before the same Lord. All I know about their lives is that they followed Jesus, and that love abides. 

I also know that Norma McCorvey and Michael Novak have finished one of the hardest jobs of work that we must do. They have died.

Dying is not easy. It is painful. It is, even on the face of it and aside from the sickness, injury or age that precedes it, hard to contemplate, hard to face, hard to do.

Dying strips of us everything we thought mattered and releases the chaff of our lives to the wind, to blow and scatter and come to naught. Dying places us, even before we leave this life, in front of the hard realities of our lives. We know that we are standing before eternity and we know that there is only One Who can sustain us as we walk the road away from life and into eternal life.

Dying is hard. But it is also an opportunity and a grace. If we have time, we can say our goodbyes, ask forgiveness of those we’ve hurt and find peace with God. The time and space of the dying process is a grace, a chance, to heal our souls and become really, deeply, eternally well.

I am glad for Norma McCorvey and Michael Novak. Their tale is told, their work is done. They have finished their race.

I am not writing this post for them, but for you. I want to remind you of three things:

(1) No matter how good you think you are, you are not good enough to go to heaven. You do not deserve eternal life. You are, in the economy of things, just another sinner. The only hope you have is at the foot of the Cross. Without Jesus and Him crucified; without repentance and humility and the undeserved, unmerited grace of God, you could never see the Face of God in eternity.

(2) The sum total of your life is not what you accomplish. It is not even what you accomplish for God. You can preach and teach and be oh-so-perfect in your fidelity to the Commandments, and you will still be that lost sinner in point number one. Place your hope in Jesus. Have faith in Him. And love other people to the point of standing for them in their pain. Love especially those people who make it easiest to despise.

(3) Remember that your days are numbered. You do not have forever to do what you must do in this life. Don’t wait to forgive your enemies. Don’t hesitate to say I love you. Don’t pull back from random acts of kindness and big acts of sacrifice. Don’t, for one moment, forget that your decisions belong to you and no one else. When you stand before God, you will not be able to point to your bad childhood or the culture or the schools you went to and blame them for your sins. You are responsible, and the only way out of your just destination is Jesus. Nothing you do, nothing you say, nothing you are will save you. Self-righteousness and righteousness are not the same thing, and none of us is righteous before God.

Michael Novak’s life is an example of what a God-infused life can be. Norma McCorvey’s life is a lesson in the power of God’s love and grace. 

May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.