Coming to Terms with Mortality

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 24, 2020 Seventh Sunday of Easter - John 17:1-11

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Our awareness of life and death has increased dramatically over the last few weeks. Thousands and thousands have tragically died during the coronavirus pandemic. So, it is almost impossible not to think of those who have died and to think about our own life in terms of our own eventual death.

From this Sunday’s gospel we recall that Jesus himself carried similar thoughts, especially as he neared the end of his own life. He thanked God for his life, a reminder that besides being divine himself, he was also human. Yet he fully believed that the end of his earthly life was not the end of him. He spoke of returning to the Father. He mentioned in his prayer toward the end that he had completed what he was sent to do, which was to offer to us an incredible gift from God. Eternal life!

We live in a very secular culture. In such a milieu, some see death as a final ending. We die and that’s it. Nothing more. But that’s not the gospel message for us today. In the midst of widespread tragic death there remains our belief that there is more to come. Much more. We will experience life with God and with each other that will not cease. No one who is still alive here has seen any details of this future life. No one has heard or smelled or tasted or felt what “eternal life” will be like. We are assured, however, that it will lack one aspect of our current life, and that is its duration. It will be eternal. It will not end.

We don’t know if there will be clocks or calendars, days and nights, seasons and change. Some have suggested that it will simply be one everlasting ecstatic moment of happiness and joy. Perhaps. It’s anyone’s guess. I like to imagine that it will be an unending continuation of the best moments of my earthly life. That would be great.

I do know that we all seem to share a hunger for some form of eternal life. St. Augustine, a brilliant Fifth Century theologian of the church, wrote that our hearts yearn for God and will not rest until they rest fully in God. In other words, we desire more. And we can believe that God placed that desire in us.

We might want to talk among each other about this. We are all getting closer to our deaths each passing day. We should not feel that we are being selfish, or illusionary if we try to imagine what’s after our death. Such thinking can also help us to appreciate more each breath of life here. In a sense, it’s all part of God’s gift of life to each of us.    

 

©David M. Thomas, PhD


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