Death and Life
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
The month of June is dedicated to increased devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us ask our good Lord for the grace to know and understand His personal love for each one of us!
This Sunday I share with you a meditation on Death and Life - regarding our souls. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“Death and Life - the death we must avoid and fear: This Sunday the Liturgy speaks to us about death and life. The first reading (Wis. 1:13-15) teaches us that death had no place in the initial plan of the Creator. God did not make death, and He does not take delight in the death of the living. It is the result of sin. (cf. Rom. 6:23) Jesus Christ accepted it as a necessity of nature, as an inevitable part of man’s fate on earth. Jesus Christ accepted it…in order to overcome sin. (St. John Paul II, Homily, 28 February 1979) The human heart recoils in anguish from death (Heb. 2:15), but we are comforted by the knowledge that Jesus annihilated it. He has destroyed death. (2 Tim. 1:10) It is no longer the event that man must fear above all else. Rather it is, for the believer, the necessary step from this world to the Father.
The Gospel of the Holy Mass shows us Jesus arriving once more at Capharnaum (Mark 5:21-43), where a large crowd had gathered expectantly to meet Him. Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, was waiting. His need was great and so was his Faith. His daughter was at the point of death. There was also a woman there who had spent every penny she had trying to find a cure for a long illness. Both these people felt an urgent need to meet Jesus. The healing of this woman, who had placed all her Hope in Him, takes place on the way to Jairus’ house.
Jesus has stopped to console the woman. Meanwhile, they inform the ruler of the synagogue: Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further? But Jesus takes Peter, James and John to be witness-es of the miracle He is about to perform. They come to Jairus’ house, and He sees the confusion and the people there weeping and wailing. Then He enters, He says, Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping. And they laugh at Him… They failed to understand that for God real death is sin, which kills the Divine Life of the soul. For the believer, bodily death is like a sleep from which we awake in God. That is how the first Christians looked at it.
St. Paul urged the Christians at Thessalonica not to be of any other mind: We would not have you ignorant, brethren, he exhorted them, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no Hope. (1 Thess. 4:13) We cannot lament like those who expect nothing after this life. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess. 4:14) He will do for us what He did for Lazarus: Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him. When the disciples thought He meant a natural sleep, Jesus clearly explains: Lazarus is dead. (cf. John 11:11 ff.)
When death comes we shall close our eyes on this life and awake in the real Life, a Life that lasts for ever. At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn, we pray in the Responsorial Psalm. (Ps. 29:6) Sin is real death. It is the dreadful separation of man when he breaks away from God. Compared to this, the other separation, that of the body from the soul, is temporary and even trivial. He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he Live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. (John 11:25-26)
Death, which was to be the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26) is in fact our ally. It has become the last step after which we find ourselves in the definite embrace of Our Heavenly Father. He has been waiting for us from all eternity, and has destined us to remain with Him forever. When you think about death, do not be afraid, in spite of your sins. For He already knows that you love Him and what stuff you are made of. If you seek Him, He will welcome you as the father welcomed the prodigal son; but you have to seek Him. (J. Escriva, Furrow, 880) Lord, You know that I seek You day and night.
Sin, the death of the soul. Its effects: The child is not dead but sleeping, Jesus tells Jairus. For men she was indeed dead. There was no wakening her. For God she was asleep, because her soul lived on under the Divine Power and her flesh should rest till the Resurrection. Thus the custom arose among Christians of calling the dead, whom we know will rise again, by the name of sleepers. (The Venerable Bede, Commentary on St. Mark’s Gospel, in loc.)
Bodily death is not an absolute evil. Don’t forget, my son, that for you on earth there is but one evil, which you must fear and avoid with the grace of God - sin. (J. Escriva, The Way) The lack of God… is death to the soul. (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 2, 7)When a man falls into grave sin he is lost for himself and for God. It is the greatest tragedy that could befall him. (cf. Tanquerey, Compendium of A scetical and Mystical Theology, 719-723) He is radically cut off from God by the total loss of Divine Life in his soul. He loses whatever merits he has acquired throughout his life and is in this state unable to acquire new ones. In some way he is subject to the slavery of the devil, and his natural inclination towards virtue is diminished. This situation is so grave that by all mortal sins, even those of thought, men are made into ‘children of wrath’ (Eph. 2:3) and enemies of God. (Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 5) By Faith we know that a single sin, even a venial sin, but a fortiori a mortal sin, is a disorder greater than the most disastrous catastrophe that could lay waste the whole world, since the good of grace in a single soul is greater than the natural good of the whole universe. (St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, 1-2, 113, 9, 2)
Sin not only harms the person who commits it, but harms also his family, his friends, the whole of the Church. One can speak of ‘a communion of sin’, whereby a soul that debases itself through sin drags down with itself the Church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is not a single sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly personal and individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with consequences of greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. (St. John Paul II, Reconciliation et Poenitentia, 2 December 1984, 16)
We should often ask God never to let us lose the sense of sin and its seriousness. We should never put our soul in danger or get used to seeing sin around us as being of little importance. Let us atone for our own faults and for those of all men. At the end of our lives may God be able to say of us, he has not died, he is sleeping. Then He will awaken us to Life.
The life of the soul to be esteemed above all else: J esus paid no attention at all to those who laughed at Him. On the contrary, He put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with Him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand He said to her, ‘Talitha cumi’, which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise’. And immediately the girl got up and walked; for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were overcome with amazement.
The evangelists have handed down to us a seemingly small but significantly human touch of Jesus - and He told them to give her something to eat. Jesus, perfect God and perfect Man, is also interested in those matters that relate to our life here on earth. But He is far more interested in whatever concerns our eternal destiny. St. Jerome comments on these words of our Lord: The child is not dead, but sleeping. He points out that both things are true. It is as though He were saying, ‘She is dead for you, but sleeping for Me’. (St. Jerome, Catena Aurea, vol. 4, p. 131) If we love our bodily life, how much more should we esteem the life of the soul!
The Christian who tries to follow Christ closely detests mortal sin and will habitually avoid grave faults, although nobody is confirmed in grace. The recognition of our own weakness will lead us to avoid the occasions of mortal sin, including even remote occasions. The life of the soul is worth a lot! Love for the life of grace will move us to an assiduous mortification of the senses.
We shall not trust ourselves, or our experience, or the length of time we have already spent following Christ. We shall love frequent confession and complete sincerity in spiritual direction.
To safeguard the life of the soul we must keep up the struggle… (against all sin, and seek understanding on) what is serious and what is less serious, between what is forbidden and what is permitted. Deliberate venial sins cause havoc in souls that are not struggling sincerely to avoid them. They do not, it is true, utterly destroy the life of grace in the soul, but they certainly weaken it. They make it more difficult to practice the virtues, and render the gentle motions of the Holy Spirit less effective. If we do not react firmly, venial sins make us liable to more serious falls.
Let us ask our Mother, the Blessed Virgin, to obtain for us the gift of esteeming the Life of the Soul above all human goods, even that of bodily life itself. She will help us to react with true contrition against our weaknesses and errors. We can say with the Psalmist: The eyes shed streams of tears, because men do not keep Thy Law. (Ps. 118:136) Maintaining and increasing the life of the soul is more important than the death of the body.” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us a great love for the Sacraments of our Faith and our Lord’s friendship!
In Christ through Mary,