St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

“Death Café”                                                                              -Homily March 15 & 22, 2015

 

I have heard recently that there are people having meetings to talk openly about death. It is called the “Death Café”... There is a need to release the angst that the thought of death and its unavoidability brings to our minds. But at the same time, is it not more harmful to speak about death, to ask the question, when you are not sure about the answer? I want to repeat our answer, the Christian answer, the answer of God to the mystery of life and death.

 

Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 

1) Death for us is not “pain day,” but “pay-day.” We know that we will receive on that day a reward for our works. That puts our life in prospective. It is not only about this world, it is about something else, and what comes after depends on what I do now. In front of me opens up the possibility of eternal joy or eternal punishment. That makes life much more interesting... As Chesterton used to say, if hell does not exist life is a picnic. A picnic, something boring: We go, we eat something, we are back, that’s it. This is not what we believe.

 

We believe that salvation is an encounter face to face with God, a communion of love with the Creator of the world, it is to rejoice in his own joy for ever. The eternal punishment of hell is a reminder that what God wants from me is my love, he wants me to choose him freely, as it happens in true love. God loves me, but a communion of love is not attained unless the other one loves back. We are free to say no. But if we say no, we will never be happy. In the movies everybody goes to heaven. In heaven, everybody knows that the movie could have ended in another way. We write our own movie. Jesus said:

 

No one who believes in [the Son of man] will be condemned;

but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,

because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son. (John 3:18)

 

2) The mystery of death for us Christians has a totally different prospective because of our faith. We know that there are things we cannot see, but they are true. Why do we say they are true? Because they have been witnessed to us by a man who rose from the dead, by a Church of saints who did and do miracles, and by a Christian Community who has always taken the lead of charity works in the world. We believe to the witness of people who are trustworthy. We do not believe because it makes us feel good, but because it is true. I have spoken about this in other opportunities of the historical character of the resurrection of Jesus, and of the scientific assessment about the miracles in the Church. If we believe in our date of birth because we read our ID, even if we have not seen our birth, I think we have enough reason to believe in Heaven, even if we have not seen it yet. We believe in the Government of Ontario who wrote our ID, why not believe in God, who wrote the Bible...? Why not believe in Jesus?

 

3) The last point I want to make is actually the first I wanted to speak about. Our attitude in front of our own death. Do we love God above all things? Yes, we may say. And so, why do we find so hard to go and meet him? Maybe, because we love more the world than God. Why? Perhaps because we do not understand that “Your love is better than life” (Psalm 63:3), as David sang; or that, as St. Paul says: “No eye has ever seen, no ear ever heard, nor has it come to human mind what God has prepared for those who love him” (1Co 2:9). Heaven is so beautiful! But none of us has been there yet. God is Heaven, nothing is better than him! But we have not seen him yet. Jesus has seen God, we have not, but we believe in Him.

 

We say everyday: “Thy kingdom come.” But when God calls us to that kingdom, we are reluctant to go.[1] Because we love life, we love things on earth, and perhaps we do love God because we are grateful for his gifts... but we don’t like Him any more if he doesn’t give us something we want. Like little children! We should try to go from the love of gifts to the love of the giver, to the love of our Father. We should try to understand that the source of these goods must be better than the goods themselves. As the fire itself is much warmer than the heat that arrives to us from a distance, thus God is much better than his gifts. David in ecstasy said: “Your love is better than life.”

 

Death is for us the possibility of rejoicing in that love, if we welcome the word of God and try to practice it. If we freely choose him on earth, if we love him, He loves us now and will love us for ever in Heaven. But he enters only when the door is open. Let us open ourselves to his forgiveness, let us be sorry for our sins. Let us not live as those who have no hope. Death for us is just a passage, and the thought of our destiny must not be a cause of fear, but of living to the full the days that are left to us. To live is to love, it is to pray and to work for my neighbour, it is to love my children, my friends and even my enemies, that is why we are here on earth. And if we live like this, we will rejoice in the love of God for ever in Heaven.

 

May this Lenten season help us to grow in faith, in hope of heaven and in the love of God. May we pray more, do more penance for our sins, and love more our neighbour. May Our Lady intercede for us.   Fr. Andrew



[1] Cf. St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr, Treatise On Death, Ch. 18.24.26; CSEL 3,308.312-314)