As we prepare to finish up the liturgical year, the readings during these weeks all revolve around the theme of the "end days", both personal and global. Today is no exception, when He says that "one will be taken, the other left". This reflects what actually happens, since not all are dying at the same time. His primary concern is what we do with the time we have on earth - how we live is more important than how, when or where we die.
One of the most powerful lines in today's gospel (Luke 17: 26-37) for me is "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it." It seems to point out a plan for living, and rightly takes our attention and concern off of the eventuality of death. Every one of us will die, that is a given. But if we spend our time on earth trying to prevent our death, we will never really live. That is a real key for me, since I, like everyone else, sometimes worry too much about death. Every moment I spend thinking about my death is a moment I am not spending living well.
So, how can we lose our lives for His sake? I think it means that we have to pay more attention to letting go of our own desires and priorities and put others first. This is very difficult, since there is no guarantee that anyone will put our interests first. But that is, perhaps, why this is the key to saving our own lives. I imagine that all those who have sacrificed their lives for others throughout history, whether soldiers, first responders, or acts of bravery, completely understand that these acts were the means by which they gained eternal life. And even small acts of self-denial, when done so that another may be helped, are ways that we begin to accept the gift of eternal life that is offered to each of us.
"My way or the highway" may sound like a statement of power and control, but it really is the attitude of a loser. You may gain a small measure of satisfaction by having things your way now, but if you are not willing to lose that life, you just might not gain the eternal one that God is waiting to give you.