Death has a particular way of inflicting itself upon us. When we least expect it, even after a long infirmity, it seems to creep up on us as if a fog creeping in the morning, or a sandstorm ominously approaching from far away. Death enters, and life is forever changed. For those who continue living, death has the innate ability to shake us to the core, whether because it reminds us of our own mortality, or because it makes us experience the loss of a dear beloved person. Whatever it does, death has that not so subtle way of imposing itself upon us, and in a certain way, when death arrives, it takes not only the life of those we love, it forever makes the lives of the living, different.
Something else that death manages to do when it entangles us in its grasp, is to test our faith and sometimes, to alter our hopes, it is capable of making a dent in our lives that is sometimes not overcome, or it burns memories into our minds of those last moments, or what I should have done differently, regrets are created and at times, because of those memories, we mourn. Death has a way of doing that quite well.
And then, just as we believe ourselves to have overcome the shadow of death, maybe a year or two later, we all of a sudden remember it once again, as we remind ourselves that I need to tell dad about this or that thing, only to realize that dad, is gone. Death is here.
But as Christians, we come together at times of death, and yes, while our faith may be tested by the loss we have experienced, or as our hopes may be altered or changed because of the void in our lives, St. Paul reminds us that after all have passed away, of faith, hope and love, only love remains. As Christians then, we gather at times of death not only because we must, but because in Christ, and in His love, we have glimpsed the power of His transformative life. Upon taking Christ into our lives, and as we become heralds of Love having taken on Flesh, we are reminded that while faith and hope may pass, or while the tomb may pretend to contain them as it did Jesus, or as it will all of us, even there, in the cold silence of the dark tomb, love will call upon us, love will call us beyond death, Love will call us to Himself and in Him, we will live! We shall have the life that we shared here on earth, a life that we glimpsed through the sacraments and a life that is felt now, in the love we have for each other. Because as we gather today, we not only come to celebrate life, we come to acknowledge the life we now share in each other, through Christ.
We come and recall that in the gentle hug of friend, or the warm hand of our neighbor we experience the touch of Christ, the same Christ whose voice we pray, that those who have preceded us will hear and respond to, the Christ who in his great love has come to each and every one of us. Christ who in His own victory from the dead, reminds us that our hope is not in vain nor our faith empty, but rather fulfilled in his love in which we are strengthened for the journey, one in which we encounter God’s love on a daily basis, through those around us and in our selves, a journey which will one day appear to give into the cool grip of death, but in reality a journey in which we, through the great love of Christ, will be transformed as our life is changed, not ended.
And so, we gather here today, and we continue walking into tomorrow, knowing that while there will be sorrow at times, as people as we sit in an empty room for the first time, or maybe six months down the road or at his birthday, we will continue walking with Christ and sharing in his life, trying to understand that in every step, as we await our friend death, we will not fear, but rejoice, because beyond death, God calls us into life. And so we live, we celebrate and we change, for we too will not end, but be changed, and together, with all the Saints and angels, we will rejoice in Him who is our life.
As always, know that you are loved, God bless you and Peace to you! Fr. Ricky