“IF ONLY . . .”


Driving to work this morning, I saw the license plate of the car in front of me when traffic stopped. The license plate of the car read: “IF ONLY”.

I immediately wondered why the owner chose that special tag -- 2 words instead of the usual combination of letters and numbers.

Why “IF ONLY”?

"If Only" is usually associated with a feeling of regret or remorse about a particular act, or omission of an act that produced an unwanted or undesired result or consequence. For example:

"If only I had not driven under the influence of liquor, I would not have crashed into another's car", or

"If only I had studied hard, I would have become a successful person now."

The story of the rich man who ignored the hungry beggar Lazarus lying with sores at his gate, wishing to pick up crumbs that fell from his sumptuous table comes to mind. The rich man died and was put in a place of torment. He asked the patriarch Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue, for he was in anguish in the flame, but he was denied. He must have regretted ignoring Lazarus in life -- “If only I had shown compassion to Lazarus, probably I would not be suffering here in this place of torment.”

"If only." But it was too late for him.

I think that most of us have "if only" experiences of our own.

Something like: "If only" I had not done this, I would have been spared this suffering. If only" I had done this, I would have achieved something good for myself.

In some cases there are opportunities to rectify some acts of commission and omission and thus produce good and desired consequences. We can say: "Now, I know better."

Our God is a God that gives us many chances, especially in our moral life while we are still here. If we have regrets, or remorse for our bad choices or evil actions, called "sin," we can be forgiven, and the unwanted effects erased. It is called "repentance" and it results in forgiveness, making us right with God.

We should make sure that when we close our eyes in death and we appear before the judgement seat of the Lord, there will be no reason for us to say to ourselves and to the Lord: "If Only":

. . . . If only I had been more forgiving, more loving, more caring, more patient,

. . . . If only I had the correct priorities in my life

. . . . If only I had done things that truly matter most,

. . . . If only I had put Christ as the Center of my life

. . . . If only I had served Christ in other people

This will only happen if even now we can say "Because":

. . . . Because I have been more forgiving, more loving, more caring, more patient,

. . . . Because I have done things that truly matter most,

. . . . Because I have the correct priorities in my life

. . . . Because I have put Christ as the Center of my life

. . . . Because I have served Christ in other people

May God give us this wisdom, and the grace. As the motto of Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland puts it: "Light to Know, Grace to Do."

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

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