Thursday, April 7, 2011

Death is no longer final – Life is!

Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A

Many people are frightened of death. I believe all of us at one stage of another would also have struggled with the fear of death. What frightens us most about death is that of the unknown? What happens to us after we die? Will we go to heaven or will we go to hell? Or perhaps, this life is all there is to it? Perhaps, there may be no life after death. What then?

The Chinese are no different. We get very excited over the topic of death. Perhaps, there is no room for God or religion until we grow old or become sick. When we are young and healthy, we’re too busy trying to obtain a good education or trying to get rich. It’s only when we are much older, when death looms around the corner, that the realization comes that we must make some preparation. Suddenly, God becomes all important.

But one thing is certain – we all die. Death means painful separation from the people whom we love. Death means the end of all our projects and plans. Certainly, this kind of death was never intended by God. This may be the reason why Jesus himself grieves over the death of his friend Lazarus. Life, eternal life, is part of God’s plan for mankind from the beginning. Death entered into this world with sin. This is because sin is death itself – sin kills our spirit and destroys love.

I would not presume to explain away death. I cannot explain death, no human can do that. The best we can do is to see death in perspective by looking at the realities of life as something that extends beyond our time here on earth. In other words, we can only understand death by seeing it in the perspective of the resurrection.

Death has now taken on a new meaning with the coming of Christ. The resurrection of Christ transforms death – death is no longer final – life is. And we who believe in Jesus will also come to share in this life – eternal life – a life that can never be destroyed by death. Jesus tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

What should worry us more than physical death is a ‘death’ that happens to us long before we are placed in the grave. Physical death by itself cannot rob us of eternal life but the way we live our lives can. We are already dead when our lives are without purpose or direction. We are already dead when things are more important than persons. We are already dead when our lives are filled with so many things – our work, our properties, our family, our personal problems – there is no room for God. We are already dead when we consider our present short life as more important than the eternal life promised by Jesus.

My dear elect, it is only 2 weeks to your baptism. In baptism, you will die with Christ so that you may have a share of the eternal life which he promises to everyone. Jesus has promised us that he is the resurrection and the life, and that if anyone who believes in him, even though he dies he will live. Do you believe this? If you do, then prepare to come forward for the third and final rite of scrutiny.

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