The Church’s liturgical year is drawing closer to its end. As it does, our Scripture readings focus our attention on the end of the age and the return of the Lord Jesus in glory. They also invite us to reflect on our own mortality and the reality that one day death will claim our mortal body, but that our soul is immortal.
St. Benedict in his Rule for the monastic community told the monks “to keep death daily before your eyes.” He did not write that admonition to be morbid. Rather, he used it as a reminder that death should be seen in a positive light. Reflecting on death can result in a true love of life. When we are familiar with death, we accept each day as a gift from our loving God. When we accept life bit by bit like this, it becomes very precious.
When we face our mortality we are put in touch with the other life, eternal life, the seed of which was planted in us at baptism. Death is a transition to a new and radical way of living life. While this all sounds awesome and beautiful, it doesn’t mean that it is easy.
When we stop and reflect, our passage from this life is preceded by many other passages. Life is constantly in transition day by day. When we were born we made the passage from the security of our mother’s womb to life outside the womb in a world totally unfamiliar to us. When we went to school we made the passage from life in the family to life in the larger community. Those who are married have made the passage from a life with many options to a life of total commitment to one person. Those who have retired have made a passage from a life of clearly defined work to a life without work and more leisure. Each of these passages results in a kind of death but also leads to new life. When we live these passages well, we are preparing ourselves for the final passage over the waters of death into the life that has no end.
The thing that helps us to confront the reality of death is our faith. Faith enables us to face death with courage and hope. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote in his book, The Gift of Peace, “death is our friend, not the enemy.” St. Francis of Assisi said that “death is the final gift God gives us.” It releases us from the chains of this mortal existence so that we may live eternally.
Death is moving from life as we know it to a new life that is far more glorious, beyond our imagining. As St. Paul wrote, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Each one of us has been sent into this world with a dignity, a purpose, and a destiny. Our dignity is that we are the adopted children of God through baptism. Our purpose, our mission is to do the will of God in this life. Our destiny to be one with God in the new and eternal Jerusalem.
— Fr. Dennis, November 10, 2019