Thursday, February 14, 2019

6th Sunday of Year C (Gospel: Lk 6:17, 20-26) The Mystery of Death

When I was nineteen a good friend of mine was killed in a car crash. It was my first real encounter of someone close to me dying and it was devastating. I remember fainting when I saw his body. It was so unreal and it took me a long time to accept it. When you are young you feel immortal and death is not usually part of your reality. The death of someone close comes as a terrible shock.


Probably the hardest thing for any of us to face is the mystery of death, especially the death of a young person, or child. Often at funerals you hear people talking about the person who has died as though their existence was now finished. ‘He lives on in our memories’, as though that was the only way they live on. For us Christians, nothing could be further from the truth. Believing what we believe can make all the difference in the world, because it gives us a totally different picture.

A person’s death comes as a shock to us, but remember it is not a shock to God. The Lord has been expecting them and knew the exact moment when they would leave this earth, but their life is just as real now as it was on earth. In fact they are now alive more intensely than we are, because they are no longer restricted as we are. They no longer carry all the emotional baggage and physical restrictions that we have. They have full knowledge and no longer need faith, because they experience God face to face. Everything now makes sense to them. All the questions they had throughout their lives are now answered. That is what we believe and that is what awaits us, if we make the right choices.


There is a beautiful sculpture I came across by a man called Jerry Anderson. It shows an old woman standing at a doorway with one hand on the door, about to go through. She is looking over her shoulder at what lay behind. On the other side of the door you see the same person coming through as a young woman and she is meeting Jesus. This is a beautiful depiction of how we understand death. That is what will happen, but we are not always convinced of this. The shock of death leaves us with many questions and very few answers and these kinds of ideas can just seem like pious ideas, but we believe that is exactly what will happen.


'Come to Me,' by Jerry Anderson

 In Fatima in 1917, our Lady said to the three children, ‘If people knew what heaven was like, they would do everything to change their ways.’ It is real and we must take our actions seriously, as all our actions have consequences.


In the second reading today are the words, ‘If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.’ If we think that this life is everything, then we have completely missed the point. Our life here on earth is only a preparation for what is to come and it is so important that we remember this, because that will have a profound effect on how we live. If this life were everything, it is a pretty cruel joke for many people, as so many people suffer greatly here on earth. But if it is only a preparation for what lies ahead, then that changes everything.


If the world to come wasn’t real, then the death and resurrection of Jesus was pointless, which would mean the mass is meaningless. It would also mean we would not see our loved ones when we die. Believing this or not, makes a big difference to how we will live. If the next life is what we are preparing for, then we can make sacrifices and put up with difficulties because of what lies ahead. It is a long-term investment.


Why has Our Lady appeared in many different parts of the world over the last few centuries? to make us wake up, because we often forget about the reality of God and the consequences of our life here on earth. Her message is always the same: ‘You are living as though God does not exist and you cannot live without God.’ She is saying, ‘Wake up! Your actions have consequences and you must take your life seriously, so that you don’t lose what God has waiting for you.’ We can lose what God has waiting for us if we are not careful and that’s why it is so important that we remind ourselves often of the reality of God and the after life.


Why don’t our loved ones come back to tell us what it is like? They don’t need to, as they know that the ‘not-knowing’ of this world, is part of the journey of faith. That is why we keep coming back to Church each week, to remind ourselves of what is important, of the reality of God and how He tells us to live. That is also why Our Lady has appeared in many places, lest we forget.



We are also told to pray for the dead. When people die we give thanks to God for their life, but don’t forget to pray for them as well, because that is what the Lord has taught us to do. If they are not in heaven immediately when they die, then our prayers can help them on the last part of their journey. But the tragedy of someone’s death, especially when they are young, is not for them, it is for us. Would you rather remain here on earth, or be in a place where you no longer suffer? Personally, if given the choice, I would rather be there and I look forward to when my time on earth will be complete. Then we will be able to live without any fear of violence, or sickness, or injustice. We will experience total fulfillment in a way that we can only imagine now. So the next time your are about to take revenge on someone, or sue someone, try and remember that your life here on earth is short.

Every time we receive the Eucharist, we are being reminded of that reality. It is Jesus telling us that He is with us until our earthly journey is over and it will be so worthwhile.

If people knew what heaven was like,

they would do everything to change their lives. – Our Lady at Fatima

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