Overcoming Death

Clergy Corner by Fr. Ray

We Christians have a strong faith in life after  death. In fact, eternal life to a Christian does not begin with death, it begins with this faith. As one  of the strongest Old Testament witnesses to resurrection after death, we hear the sons of a Jewish mother, telling their persecutors, “The King of the world will raise us up to live again forever” (2Mac 7:9). We hear St. Paul blessing the Thessalonians saying, “May God our Father who in His mercy gave us eternal consolation and hope, console your hearts” (2Thess 2:16-17). Jesus quoting those very Scriptures which the Jewish group that challenged Him used as an argument to deny any life after death, to affirm that “the dead do rise to life” (Lk 20:35). Therefore, to us believers death is God’s delightful way of giving life.

Is our faith in life after death deep enough to sustain us in our sufferings, and strong enough to carry us through our pilgrim life on earth? One wonders whether some of us are like Napoleon who said, “I die before my time; and my body will be given back to earth, to become the food for worms. Such is the fate which soon awaits the great Napoleon.” What a contrast are these words to those of Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives and though after my skin worms destroy my body, yet life in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). If Job who lived before Christ could say that, we who live after Christ should not only be able just to say it with our lips, but really to mean every word of it and live by it. Of course, we do not know much about heaven, except that it is forever, and that nobody is ever bored, for in heaven God will never hide His face and Satan will never show his.

However, in order to overcome death and enter into eternal life, we must do what Jesus did, not by brewing an eternal-life drug or by taking a miraculous bath. Jesus overcame death not by such means; He overcame death by letting Himself be loved by God unconditionally. This is what we too are called to do. We need to allow “the Lord to rule our hearts in the love of God” (2 Thess 3:5), so that daily we live a life of loving and being loved. Such a life calls for accepting our earthly life as a gift to be used every day and making it blessed by living it well; it calls for accepting all the joys and sorrows of life without ever being discouraged; it calls for working daily to build God’s kingdom of justice and peace, demonstrating thereby our appreciation of the temporal order.

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