Friday, July 1, 2016

In the Face of Death, The Love of Christ Over Platitudes

There are moments in all of our lives when the seriousness of life and of death are placed before our eyes. Suddenly, we come face to face with the fragility of our existence. We are confronted by the reality that we are mortal, and that what seems permanent is only temporary, what seems stable is only fleeting, and what seems central is only peripheral.  When we are confronted by the reality of death, there is a great temptation to find solace in trivializing the reality.

We start speaking of people becoming angels, floating on clouds, them living forever in our hearts, and so on. Sometimes, the death of a loved one produces an immediate reaction that appears to be so powerful that it would be impossible ever to return to living a shallow life again. But then, the days pass and we soon settle back into living in a way that suggests that the next party, the next election, or the next championship game is what defines life.  It's as though reality is too much for us to bear. We need to find an escape hatch and so we resort to platitudes and distractions.

There is, however, something better. There is the Catholic way of approaching life and death. Unfortunately, we run away from this approach because it is all too real. Sometimes, we run away from reality because we are afraid that we cannot handle it. Sacraments are real. Sacraments are very real. But so often, we run away from them. People don't want the priest to come to anoint their loved one in the hospital because . . . it might mean this person is near death. In marriages, people often cringe when the vows mention "until death do us part." Why? In part, it is because it puts before us the reality that this union is serious. It is so serious that only death can break it. People avoid confession because it is about something serious. It puts in front of us our relationship with God and that I am a sinner who needs mercy. My sins are serious. Confession points that out. Avoiding confession allows me to live in a world that pretends that everything is fine. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Sometimes, we tend to avoid thinking about that because if I face that reality--the most REAL thing there is--then it might make some serious claim on my life.

When we are confronted in our life by the reality of death, the easy way out is to leap headlong into platitudes. But, the Church offers something so much better. It offers to us an opportunity to live life as the gift that God intended it to be. It offers us the opportunity to go to confession and to be reconciled to God. It offers to us the opportunity to follow Jesus in a more committed way, to leave sin behind, and to strive to imitate Christ more perfectly. It offers us the opportunity to recognize our own mortality and not to run away from that, but rather to embrace Christ and His Cross. 

When we are confronted by the the reality of our mortality, the Catholic Church holds before our eyes what is truly real. What is truly real is all that really matters and all that really brings comfort. We are made by God. He loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to save us, to rescue us from sin and death. By following Him, listening to Him, receiving Him through the Sacraments, we prepare ourselves for death. By allowing Him to conquer the power of sin at work in us and by allowing Him to perfect us through His Grace, we are made ready to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We are people who need to be saved and He is a Savior who stretches out His hand to all those who will grasp it. Christ seeks to live in us and to draw us into His Divine Love. His love is very real. It is so real that we are sometimes afraid that it might crush us, and so we flee from it.

In the face of death, it is tempting to hide in the realm of platitudes. But we all know that these platitudes are empty. They provide anesthesia, but not true consolation. God did not send us a platitude. He sent us His Son. His Son died for us. His Son loves us. His Son is everything. When we live the Catholic life, we experience God's love for us, a love that is real.

To those who today feel the weight of reality....the weight of life and death: Don't run away from it! Take life and death seriously . . . because they are serious. When we live the reality of our life and death within the context of the Church, something quite extraordinary happens to us. We realize that our life is something truly great because it is something given by God and is something destined for eternity with God. Living and dying in the life of the Church is so much greater than anything else because it is REAL!  When we live without the Church, so often all we are left with at the moment of death is the anesthesia of platitudes. But, when we live and die within the life of the Church then reality is not something to be feared or avoided. Instead, reality--in all of its pain, suffering, and sorrow--is met, not with platitudes, but with the embrace of Christ, with confidence in His great love, with certain hope in eternal life, and with joyful expectation in the resurrection. 

No comments:

Post a Comment