Have you ever been to a funeral that seems to be more an upbeat celebration than an acknowledgment of the sadness of death? Or have you noticed how many people today refer to somebody as having ‘passed’ rather than simply saying they have ‘died’?
As a culture, death and dying are increasingly realities we find difficult to even contemplate. Ironically, we’ll spend inordinate amounts of money and energy on prolonging our lives and yet, as soon as death is on the horizon, we’ll argue the case for being able to pull the plug prematurely. Our relationship with death is, as a culture, one of either ‘let’s avoid it at all costs’ or ‘let’s get it over with’.
Of course, these are complex matters and need to be thought about intelligently and compassionately. Doing so begins with allowing ourselves to take the difficult things of life head on. In a world increasingly dominated by distractions and doing whatever we can to make ourselves ‘feel good’, learning to pay attention to the reality of the struggles and sufferings of others can be a difficult road to walk. Yet, we can only discover ourselves and one another in the midst of what’s real.
The reflection below from Pope Francis is on this line from the gospels: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
“The world tells us that…. entertainment, pleasure, diversion and escape make for the good life. The worldly person ignores problems of sickness or sorrow in the family or all around him; he averts his gaze. The world has no desire to mourn; it would rather disregard painful situations, cover them up or hide them. Much energy is expended on fleeing from situations of suffering in the belief that reality can be concealed. But the cross can never be absent.
A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathises with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depths and finding authentic happiness.
Knowing how to mourn with others: that is holiness.” [Gaudete et Exsultate 75 – 76]
Hope for your faith journey
Why have so many poor and downtrodden people been attracted to Christianity? It's because Christian hope offers something real. A merely symbolic resurrection is not enough to get you through the darkest times. So if we believe the resurrection really happened, then Jesus Christ has given us what we most hope for: the restoration of loving relationships, the restoration of the earth, the ultimate victory of justice over evil and the defeat of death. This is the gift that God gives us, not just for the people who are good, but for the people who admit that they are not good enough and that they are in need of a saviour.
This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.