One topic that anyone would find it very difficult and most of the time afraid of to talk on is death. It frightens us because; we have not yet known what is there on the other end, after death. It is surprising that human beings have been able to reach moon and other planets but not the other side of human life. It is interesting to note that human beings have been able to read the human mind and clone the individual into another being itself but not able to know and understand what life would be after this mind stops working. It is very funny to note that there have been people who prophesy what would happen with regard to weather and other factors on the earth but no prophet has been born to tell for sure what is the life that is awaiting us after our death.
It is usually said that there is nothing more certain than death itself. At the same time what people are most anxious about is their death. No one has ever been able to calculate in her/his prime of life and say that s/he would live for another sixty years and have proved themselves to be right. Neither have anyone calculated and prophesied that s/he would live only a few years and have not survived those fake threats to life. God gave us life; it is he who is taking it away from us. He designed our lives and we are living it according to his designs. If he has designed death for us it will definitely come one day. Our anxiety and fear cannot change the certainty of death. Death is a certain fact. It will come one day, no doubt. But it is uncertain as to when will it come upon you and when will it be my turn. There is a beauty in the uncertainty of certain death.
Fear and anxiety that wraps death
The first and the most outstanding emotion that is attached with death is fear. Probably there are very few people on earth who are not afraid of dying even though it is a reality that everyone will have to face it one day in their lives. It is not a fear that has taken over the humanity in the recent years, rather one that existed probably from time immemorial. People are not only afraid to face death themselves, they are also afraid to face the reality of death that has occurred in the lives of other people. What brings fear into the minds of people when they think of death or hear about death is probably the fear of the fact that s/he will have to leave and go this earth when death occurs to them.
The anxiety that takes over a person when s/he thinks about death is a feeling that arises from the fact that all I amassed and thought I would enjoy, is going to be out of my grip. There is no wealth or possession after death. They are counted worthy on earth, away from earth, they are worthless. It is really tough for a person to get detached from all the wealth that s/he has labored and amassed here on earth. The attitude of Job from the Old Testament would be the best for us to adapt in order to get rid of this anxiety; ‘The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away’ (Job 1:21). Job realized the eternal fact that no human being comes on earth with something tightly held in his/her fist. So is their return to the mud, empty handed. Jesus asks his listeners not to be anxious and worried about things that they cannot change. There is someone who knows each one of us through and through. He will not let us be deprived of anything. This trust is what would help us to be detached from the material world and our possessions and would help us to be rid of the anxiety about death.
Death is a Passover
The term Passover has significance when it is understood from the perspective of the Old Testament, from the life of the Israelites, the chosen ones of Yahweh. They were in slavery of the Egyptians and cried to the Lord for liberation. Yahweh heard their plea and sent Moses to bring them out of the land of slavery. The event of passing away from slavery to liberation is one of the understandings of Passover in the Old Testament. It was a move from slavery to liberation. If death is to be understood in this sense, we are being liberated in and through death. We are moving from mortality to immortality.
The catholic understanding of death is the principle that St. Paul puts forward in his first letter to the Corinthians where he says that it is a passing over from this world to another, a passing over from the mortal life to the immortal life, from perishable life to the imperishable life. St. Paul, in a very detailed way analyzes the differences between life before and after death. Not only does Paul speak volumes on death but also propagates it as a reality that we should be ever ready to long for and accept happily. According to him the flesh and blood that we are made of cannot let us pass into that glorious phase of our life, we have to die to this word, die to this flesh and bone in order to get into that glory. It is passing from this life to glory that Paul means by death. When one dies, s/he embarks on a journey, a journey from this world to the other, a journey from mortality to glory.
The life after death
There is a life after our death, that is what we believe and that is the truth. It is keeping this new life after our death in mind that we live our present life. The hope that we live have a better and brighter life after our death, gives us the impetus to live looking towards death as a bright reality in our lives. It is not fear that should engulf us when we think or hear about death but rather a readiness to accept this reality, open arms to embrace death, the door that opens to my better life. It should be an anticipated joy that should take over us when we think of death. St. Paul is positive when he says about death as our victory. He says, ‘death has been swallowed up in victory’ (1Cor15:54). By dying and rising again on the third day, Jesus won over death and therefore, death is no more a defeat for us who believe in Christ. It is a victory. It is a victory over flesh and its powers; it is a victory over life itself.
The life after death promises us a glory that we have aimed at, a glory that we have cherished and a glory that we are all living for. Our present life cannot give us that everlasting glory which is guaranteed to us by death. Let us live each day of our life with the hope to die so that we can attain the glory that is prepared for us by the Lord. Let us detach ourselves to this materialistic world in order to attach ourselves to the heavenly world. It is there that our hopes are aimed at; it is there that our real glory exists. Let us die to live!
Fr Rajesh P