Sir Winston Churchill once said something beautiful about death. He said and I quote, “Broadly speaking, human beings may be divided into three classes: those who are billed to death, those who are worried to death, and those who are bored to death.“
Fear of death is written deeply into every human being. Whether we like it or not death terrifies us, death horrifies us, death shakes our being to its very foundation. Even the mere thought of the possibility of death may make us cry out and bargain: not me, not now!
This shows that deep within us we cannot accept the reality of death. It is not suprising, therefore, if we simply ignore it, if we simply choose not to think about it, if we pretend that it does not exist. If it exists it exists only for others, but not for ourselves.
But the thought of death does not allow itself to be put aside so easily. There are many things around us that keep on reminding us of the reality of death. Sickness, disability, accident, catastrophy, misfortunes and old age are constant reminders of the universality and the inevitability of death. So, all we can do is repress it or play down its seriousness. Men have never ceased to look for remedies to death. One of these is called procreation: surviving through one’s children. Another is fame. Another is perpetuating one’s memory by planting trees, writing books and establishing monuments which serve as memorials and the like. In our day a new pseudo-remedy is spreading: the doctrine of reincarnation.
Christianity has something quite different to offer in regard to the problem of death. It proclaims that death is the making of the devil out envy for man who is created in the likeness of God and destined for immortality (see Wisdom 1:13-15, 24) . It also teaches that death, which is the last enemy to be conquered, has been defeated by the death and resurrection of Christ who died for all us and for our salvation. As St. Paul wrote: “We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus to life, will also raise us up and take us up” (2 Corinthians 14:14). “If we have died with Him we shall also live with Him; if we hold out to the end we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tm 2:11-12). Death, therefore, is no longer a precipice over which all must plunge, but rather a bridge to the other shore — eternity. Nevertheless, reflecting on death is also good for believers. It helps us, above all, to live better. In today’s Gospel, we are reminded that there is life after death, that there is resurrection of the body, that there is communion and fellowship with God in heaven. Once we rose from the dead death has no more power over all. We become sons and daughters of Resurrection. These are the articles of faith that we solemnly profess every time we recite the Credo when we attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Hence, there is nothing to be afraid of. There is nothing to worry about. On the other hand we have more than enough reasons to hope. All we need is to believe and persevere to the end in our faith in Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For the Lord promised eternal life to those who believe in him and persevere in the faith to the end. As James the Apostles assures us: “Happy is the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promise to those who love him” (Jas 3:12).
In today’s Mass let us remember with our prayers and sacrifices our our faithful departed especially those who are still in the purgatory. The Bible tells us that “praying for the dead is holy and deserving of praise.” This is the reason why the Church from the time immemorial exhorts us to pray for the dead and offer Mass for the expiation of their sins. The Church reiterates this when she teaches that praying for dead and the living as well burying the dead are works of mercy that can merit us salvation (see Mt 25). Let us also thank the Lord for the precious gift of life and live this life to the fullest. Then as a sign of our gratitude and appreaciation to the God of the living, let us always respect, protect and promote the value of human life in all its stages and faces.