Class: 
Cycle A: Thirty-second Sunday of the Liturgical Year

HAS DEATH ANY MEANING?

 

If there is anything in the world we don’t like to hear about, it is certainly the reality of death. Not only we don’t like to hear about it, but we are even afraid of it. Usually, when people meet with a serious accident, they do everything they can to survive. No one is ready to let himself die.

I - Our fear of death

We may ask ourselves why it is that we are so much afraid of death. It is probably because we are not too sure of what is going to happen after. Some may imagine that, in death, one enters a dark tunnel that leads nowhere. Others may think only of the punishments in store for them. Others are afraid and they do not know why.

Those may be the reasons why most of us try to find ways of forgetting about death. For example, we get very busy in all kinds of occupations, so busy that we have no more time to think about our eternal destiny. How many of us have ever made any retreat in their lives? The world of today offers us so many distractions that we reach a point when we simply forget about death.

Yet death is a reality we cannot escape. All of us will have to go through it one day or another. We will have to leave this world to which we are so much attached in order to enter the world of the unknown. No! It is not the world of the unknown that awaits us, if only we have faith.

II - Death challenges us

However, can you believe that God exists after you see a dear one die of cancer?... There is no satisfying answer to that question. Death is part of our human condition and it comes at an hour we do not expect, as pointed out by the Gospel of today. So, that is the radical question often addressed to each one of us. And it is because of death that the promises of happiness, which fill our hearts in this life, seem never to be answered.

When we come face to face with death, we are challenged to believe everything or to deny everything. 1- We are tempted to deny everything by saying that God does not exist and that everything is absurd. Was it not what Job meant when he cursed the day of his birth: “Perish the day on which I was born!” (Job 3: 3).

A lovely couple had gotten married and desperately wanted to start a family, but could not. However, after many years, they had two daughters. They were thrilled. Then, about six years later, the wife became pregnant again. They were ecstatic. This time the other two girls were old enough to be helpful to their mother and to go to the hospital with her when her time came. The baby was born – another girl. But shortly after the birth, the baby had an aneurysm and died. They were all devastated. The doctor wanted to dispose of the day-old infant, but the family wanted a burial. Usually, the Church really does not have a ritual for such a newborn child, but the parish priest acceded to their wishes and they had a funeral. There was even a tiny white coffin, the size of a bread box. When the time came for the funeral, the father took the coffin and waited to walk up the aisle with it. The parish priest thought that was too much for him. He said: “Sir, you don’t have to do that. It might be too hard on you. The funeral director will bring it up.” – “No, Father,” said the father, “I’ll take it up. I made a promise that I would walk all my girls down the aisle.” (Anon)

3- Death is not a sufficient reason not to believe in God, but it is often seen as an obstacle in our life of faith. On the other hand, we should not forget that trying to answer the problem of death is a lifelong endeavor. It is not enough to reflect on it just for a few moments on the occasion of a relative’s death. When we are confronted with death, we do not think properly, because of the pain we feel. Often we can only cry out. Once the pain is over, it is possible to stand at a distance from the event and think. Yet, when everything goes well, we often forget about that question.

Author: 
Hervé Morissette csc