The Gospel according to Matthew (24:42-51)
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Although fear of death is a normal, natural human reaction or feeling, we Christians see death in a different light. Not that we do not experience the human reaction to the reality of death but we look forward to what lies beyond our human existence.
Several years ago, at a retreat, I was surprised to hear the retreat director share about an experience he had leading a group of cloistered monks. During a break he was walking with the Abbot discussing his life as the leader of pious, dedicated men of God. He asked the abbot, in his many years at the monastery, what had surprised him the most. He replied, that at the hour of death many of his brother monks were afraid. This revelation also surprised the retreat director who thought men who had lived such devoted and prayerful lives would not be afraid to pass on to what lay ahead. After some thought he concluded, a possible reason for this fear, even from such holy men, is that EVERTHING we have ever experienced, up to the point of death, has all happened in our human form. At the time of death, we are about to leave that exclusive existence for something else. It would be like someone coming to and telling you to leave everyone and everything behind and follow them to someplace that was beyond your wildest dreams. I believe the prospect of such a wonderful place might be overshaded by our fear of leaving ALL we know for anything else.
For a Christian there is a delicate balance between hope and fear. Because we are human we will experience all that comes with it. But we manage our fear with trust in the mercy and fidelity of God. We fluctuate from doubt to surrender as we strive to seek and follow the narrow path. But we are never alone! We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who pray for and accompany us on our journey. We have a Father who created us to share in His love. A brother who came and made sure death would not be our end, and a Guide who reminds us and shows us that the Kingdom of heaven is present. May our lives be filled with hope in the eternal promises of now and forever.
Action of the Day:
In prayer, meditation, a quiet moment ask God for the grace we need to not so much fear death as to look forward to new life. We are a people of the light. Share that grace with someone who needs a reminder that hope is greater than fear.