Sunday May 19, 2019
4:44 pm

Fear of death pales in light of the promise of our resurrections

       No one likes to think about dying. But, as we draw closer to Holy Week, it’s hard not to think about death and, as Christians, what the resurrection of Jesus means in our lives.

       One hears of elderly people talking in terms of “being ready to go,” – of being tired and worn-out in body, mind and often, spirit. But, because death is something unavoidable, something each one of us will ultimately carry through alone, I must think even the most eager to die would have some fears and apprehensions, no matter how great one’s faith. I mean, let’s face it, death is the great unknown and, despite those who have had near-death experiences, no one knows for sure what the process of dying will be like for us.

       My own mother died 14 years to the day I am writing this column. While I don’t believe her death was painful, she did linger with pneumonia for several days. Sitting by her bedside, at first I was puzzled by her mumblings and agitation; her calling out to someone, something, that was unknown to me.

       After several hours of this, I had an “aha” moment. My mom was beginning her transition to the other side. She was starting to see the holy angels, her loved ones and our Lord reaching out to bring her across to the other side. She was seeing things I couldn’t.

       When I mentioned this, the nurse that day was gentle but somewhat patronizing, explaining it was her fever, her medicines, her age, etc. I would smile. “Maybe,” I said, but I knew better. She was experiencing what her faith taught her to believe.

       At one point, I started to pray the Hail Mary out loud for her. She seemed calmed by that so I continued until my voice went hoarse. The simple prayer calmed her and it calmed me because I knew in the depths of my heart and soul that the Blessed Mother was standing close, waiting with her Son to bring her home.

       At some level, we’re scared because at those final moments, we think we experience death alone but my understanding of my mother’s death taught me otherwise. If we believe God walks with us in life, how could we fear that God wouldn’t be with us through our deaths?

       When Jesus went to the tomb of his dear friend Lazarus, his heart was heavy (Jn 1:1-45). Lazarus’ sisters were inconsolable in their grief. On one hand, Mary seems to lash out at him: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” On the other, the sisters held on to their hope in the resurrection as promised by Jesus.   

       The grief that is born out of loss versus that hope of the resurrection – the promise of new life, we struggle with that paradox.

When Jesus tells Martha, “Your brother will rise,” she replies that she knows. Lazarus will rise in the resurrection on the last day, but that does not quell the grief inside.

       So Jesus does the seemingly impossible. He raises Lazarus from the dead (dead four days already in his tomb, by the way. No chance of a near-death experience here).

       I have often wondered what was going through the minds of those who experience this mind-blowing miracle. What did Lazarus think when he was snatched from the arms of heaven? After their initial joy, when did Mary and Martha realize that, at some point their brother would die again? Death is an inevitable part of the cycle of life.

       Lazarus would die again. Martha and Mary would die. You and I will die. However Jesus shows us that through the death and the improbable, by any stretch of the human imagination, raising of Lazarus - through his own death and resurrection to come shortly - that life is not linear. Death is nothing to fear he’s made the promise of the resurrection a reality for us.  

       We’re never alone when we die.  Jesus tells Mary and Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

       Do you believe this?

       Yes, Lord, I do!

 

Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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