Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Sea of Galilee at Sunrise

Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Death, Be Not Proud!

dbImageAs we approach Holy Week, I though it would be good to reprise an earlier post with a few additions . . . My theology class at Cleveland Central Catholic was on the fifth floor of St. Michael School. One topic was death and dying. As one student entered the room, he commented, “Sister, do you know what it’s like to climb those stairs knowing that for the next forty minutes you’ll be thinking about death?” (This, despite the fact that most TV dramas deal with murder!) Usually, though, we find death depressing. Why not? On the surface it seems like it’s the end of existence, not to mention that it takes away our family and friends.  No one leaves this world alive. As my father commented on his deathbed, “Someone has to go first.” We all can all depend on being harvested by “the grim reaper” someday. But I don’t intend this post to be morbid! Rather, let’s consider death as a rite of passage, a passage into a better kind of life.

I like the concept of death being a doorway through which we enter eternal life. Chances are, no one has come back through that door to assure you of the wonders that lie just across that threshold. Basically, all we have is Jesus’ word for it, and accepting it assumes that we have faith in Jesus. Without scientific proof of an afterlife, death can loom as a frightening fate: annihilation. A priest told a story to help us understand this mystery. He said that he and his twin brother were “wombmates.” When it was time to leave their safe, familiar home within their mother, his brother didn’t want to go. He feared what awaited them on the other side. Of course, in time they both found themselves in a new world surrounded by wonders. The brother was glad he ventured out. I’m encouraged by Steve Job’s last words: As he left this world, looking past those gathered around his deathbed, three times he mysteriously uttered, “Oh, wow!” We have hope that another world even more glorious than this one awaits us.

What did Jesus say? Things like “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them upon the last day” (John 6:54) and “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places, if it were not sResurrectiono, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2) More significant was what Jesus did. Not only did he resuscitate Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the widow’s son. (And they all had to died again!)  But after being killed and buried, Jesus rose and not just with earthly life but with the glorified life that he promised will be ours someday. No wonder St. Paul could exclaim, “Death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 12:55) And as John Donne concludes his poem: “Death, thou shalt die!”

As Christians, we believe that our departed loved ones have only slipped into another world or dimension. Someday we will be reunited with them. In the meantime, let’s live to the hilt the days we have left and live in such a way that we will be ushered through the gates of heaven.

In my sympathy cards I include this poetic reflection that conveys that “Life Is Eternal”:

I am standing upon the seashore.

A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze

and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength,

and I stand and watch her until at length

she hangs like a speck of white cloud

just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, “There! she’s gone.”

Gone where? Gone from my sight; that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar

as she was when she left my side

and just as able to bear her load of living freight

to the place of destination.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her;

and just at the moment when someone at my side says,

“There! she’s gone,”

there are other eyes watching her coming,

and other voices ready to take up the glad shout,

“There she comes!”

Some people claim that they died and came back to life. A friend of mine told me that after her husband died, one night she was sure that he kissed her forehead. What reassures you that you will live forever?

What do you imagine that Heaven will be like for you?

P.S.  I’ve written a 16-page workbook to help children (and their parents) cope with the mystery of death and work through the grieving process: “Time to Say Goodbye.”  If you would like a copy, contact me.

BOOK REVIEW Blessed Are the Stressed: Secrets to a Happy Heart from a Crabby Mystic

Mary Lea Hill, FSP Pauline Books & Media, $14.95

Sister Mary Lea admits to being crabby, and therefore seems an unlikely guide to understanding happiness. Still, she has produced a book that translates those nebulous beatitudes of Christ into something anyone can practice in order to be happy. Her tone is delightful, as though she is right beside you sharing her knowledge and laughing. In her own words, her book is “not a scholarly treatment of the beatitudes; rather it is a friendly stroll through them.”

In two-page chapters, Sister covers various and diverse aspects of each beatitude, like a bee flitting from flower to flower. As a bonus, she concludes the book by delving into the lessons Jesus delivered after the beatitudes according to Matthew’s Gospel. Throughout the eighty chapters, she introduces and illustrates points by drawing on childhood experiences with her family and her life in the convent. She sprinkles her text with worthwhile quotations and allusions to poems and fairy tales.

While being entertained by the author’s quirky sense of humor, the reader will imbibe ideas for living a happy and holy life. Each chapter concludes with suggestions and questions for personal reflection.


12 Responses

  1. Hey Sister,

    Tackling a difficult subject. Death. I like your descriptions.

    The remark about the “Grim Reaper” is interesting. I did a little google search and found that the title was first used in 1847 and really has nothing to do with a particular religion, just death in general.

    So I looked up what the Catholic church has to say about death in the Catechism. Basically death is the end of our earthly pilgrimage. There is no mention of a specific entity that comes and takes our souls. I find this interesting since the Holy Spirit is “the giver of life” one would assume that there would be a “taker of life”. No?

    Anyways, I’m sure that whatever I think death will be like, it’s not.


  2. My best friend for years was a Catholic priest. He received permission from the bishop to join the Army where he was part of Operation Desert Storm and died. I drifted away from the Church for a few years and enrolled in college majoring in English. One evening when I was alone, I am sure the spirit of this priest, my beloved friend, visited me. He returned me to the Church, directed me to a Catholic college, and made me see how much God wanted me to study theology. That was in 2012 and I’m pursuing a Master’s in Theology now and still as much as in love with Christ as I was on the night the priest visited me. I am not an imaginative person, and even I doubted my experience for some time, but I finally had to come to the conclusion that it was real. I so look forward to the day when I can thank this beloved priest face-to-face for saving my soul.

  3. Hey Sister,

    Back to the topic of Death. The “doorway” we all must pass.

    Okay, I’m going out on a limb with this one. I’m going to science for this one, specifically Einstein with his wonderful equation:
    So, from this equation we can see that both mass and energy are interchangeable. Nothing is ever gained or loss, it just changes. That’s how I view life and death. Yeah, I know there are some holes in my theory, like what does the speed of light squared have to do with anything and how come it appears to be just a one way street. But God created everything and our souls just become different versions of ourselves.

    As for being frightened about death, I think we all fear change. I really don’t think we actually fear death, it’s inevitable, I think we fear how we are going to die, just my opinion.

    Now your question about Heaven probably should be in conjunction with what one thinks Hell is like, can’t have light without the contrast of dark. That answer will be for another time when my reply will as long “War and Peace”.


  4. That is an interesting connection: Einstein’s theory and death, Mark. Makes me think of the Shroud of Turin in that no one can explain how the shape of a crucified man was imprinted on the cloth, except maybe from an enormous burst of energy.

    You’re right, no one likes change except for a baby with a wet diaper. One consoling thing about how we are going to die is that with the thousands of options (meteor, car crash, cancer, sinkhole, shark, etc.) we only will lose our life to one.

    I await your novel-length comment on heaven. As a Muslim woman said recently, we compare God to light, but who knows what light is?

  5. Sister,
    Could you please send me another handful of
    Your memorial cards?
    Hope you are well.
    Thank you
    Joe Clark
    819 Lindale Ave
    Drexel Hill, pa , 19026

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