Sin and Death have been conquered!…So?
“Alleluia! The Lord is risen! Sin and Death have been conquered.” The people at the Atheists’ Conference, taking place in Melbourne as I write this, could well think we are barmy. Sin is well and truly around, people are dying all the time – even amongst the Christians that acclaim Jesus’ victory. So just what are we Christians proclaiming at this time?
Let’s begin with death. By his return at the resurrection, Jesus transformed death from being a ‘dead end’ into a path to eternal life. In my experience of people, death holds a very tricky place in the understanding of life. Most people fear it until a short time before they die yet it is an impetus for living a richer life. How many have a bucket list of things to do before they die! Interestingly fostering new life is often high on their agenda. There are also people for whom the fear of death warps their lives, stopping them from taking healthy risks. Also, in our society, there are too many for whom death is sadly preferable to living. To all these differing groups of people, Jesus’ resurrection makes death relative. What seems an absolute, life defining moment becomes a doorway into something richer. Grasping what the change is cannot be done in theory but only in personal relationship with Jesus. He was “God with us” in his dying. Now he wants to be ‘with each of us’ as we face our dying.
Loving God, you know how death brings confusion, grief and fear to our hearts. Send us your Spirit that we may know that, in Jesus, you are with us in our dying, fill our hearts with the hope of his risen life. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Held in God’s Love.
November is a time when Catholics traditionally pray for their dead. This is not an invitation into doom, gloom and ghoulishness but rather a celebration of love that truly is stronger than death. With death we are separated from our loved ones for a time. We know little of what happens to them except that they enter more deeply into the love of God. We believe that they continue to grow into the fullness of God’s love and that by our love and prayer we can help their transformation. We also know that they continue to care for us. While their loving here on earth was hampered by limitations, now that they are freed from the difficulties of this earth they can love us more passionately than ever. I believe that the love of my father and grandparents is now more true and strong that ever and that they have a real influence in my life. Our loved ones pray for us and hold us before the face of God.
This dance of love that we have with our loved ones is part of what it means to be Church. As we hold each other in love, those we know on earth and those who have died, and as we are held in love by them, we enter into our destiny. Made in the image of God, we are made to be Love.
Loving God, your Spirit calls us to the fullness of life which is love. May our departed loved ones know Jesus as the one leading them to life and may we know the assurance of their deepening love for us. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris
“And what happens when someone dies?”
Coming from a child, that is a question parents and teachers dread. Death is a mystery that we all struggle with and when a child asks it, we struggle even more. How can we answer honestly something for which there are no easy answers or pat evasions? Added to that, we are often ambushed by this question when we are dealing with the death of someone that we love.
For a Christian, the mystery of death is closely entwined with that other great mystery of life: God. Death and God! No wonder we get tongue-tied when a child blurts out the above question. And to make it even tougher, ultimately the answer to this question can only be answered in very personal terms…so I’ll share my answer with you.
Created in God’s own image, we are made for the fullness of love but while we are alive, here in this world, we experience limitations in our loving: time, space, our physical bodies, weakness in personality, our sinfulness. When we die we are released from these and given the opportunity to choose God, love and life in its fullness. Those we leave behind on earth suffer the loss of us…for a time. But the ones who have died are actually free to love us more than they could while on earth. Because of that, I often turn and pray to the people who loved me on earth: my parents, grandparents, and friends. Whatever might have limited their love on earth is now cut away and they love me with God’s own love.
In the Catholic Church, November is a time when we remember the dead. We remember them in prayer, knowing that they continue to love and care for us, with us all waiting for the day when we will be reunited in God’s glory.
Loving God, we grieve over those we love who have died. Hold us all together in your love that we may look forward to the day we will be reunited in the fullness of life. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
The Instinct of Love
Recently I attended the memorial service of a wonderful man. During the service, it was said that he wasn’t a religious man, implying that he didn’t know what came after death. His loving grandchildren did. Five of the seven wrote poems in which they expressed their love and their belief that his love would continue to be with them and guide them through their lives. How could it not? He had loved them so much, so deeply. Their instinct was right – they had known him in love and his love would go on. It was the greatest reality that they knew about him.
This week we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. The feast concerns another death, that of Mary, but also of the belief that after her death she was taken to heaven, body, soul and spirit to be with her son Jesus, to whom she had been so close here on earth. There is no direct Scriptural basis for this belief – but it has been an instinct of believers in the Church since its earliest times. Our belief holds that she, who was mother to Jesus, who shared his joys and sorrows so closely in his life, now shares his glory. She is a sign of the hope to us who hope to enter into the fullness of love and life with God. Do we really understand what this means? No, but like the grandchildren of the friend who died, we have an instinct that tells us that the love we have known will go on…and that God intends to cover us in glory, as he did Mary.
Loving Father, you have given us Mary as a sign of hope to us when we are fearful about what happens after death. In her, we see the fullness of life and love that you wish for all of us. Help us to trust in the glory that is to come. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb