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The Daily Bread, 30.03.20: Suddenly faced with death, suddenly faced with Christ.


The Daily Bread, 30th March 2020

Readings: Daniel 13:41-62; Psalm 22(23); John 8:1-11

The poor woman in the Gospel, caught in adultery, is suddenly faced with death. She is faced with the ire of the crowds; she’s faced with the self-righteousness of the hypocrites. Not one of them was without some kind of sin and probably with sin far worse than that of which she was guilty. But just as her sin brought her face to face with the consequences of it (and sin always lead to death, death of the body eventually, but also more importantly, if not forgiven, to the death of the soul), she was also suddenly faced with Christ, a Christ who wanted to forgive her sin, a Christ who wanted not her death but her life – not just the life of her body, but also the life of her soul. That is why he says, “go and don’t sin anymore.”

In these issues of sin and death, of mercy and life, we are faced with the most fundamental aspects of our existence. It is only in times of difficulty and crisis that so much of the tinsel and superfluous in our lives falls away. And it has to fall away! For we cannot keep avoiding these questions. The time of our death is a time of judgment. It is a judgment by Christ as to whether or not we have at least tried to live faithful to the covenant with Him which began in our baptism, the covenant that was fed in the Eucharist and strengthened in confirmation through the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

And so, that suggests to us that every day, and not just when death looks us right in the face as so many of us fear right now, but every day we need to examine ourselves, we need to look and see whether we are living in fidelity to Christ. He died that we might have life. He died that we might be forgiven. He died that we might know the joy and love of his Kingdom. These are the fundamental considerations that are a stream of life-giving grace flowing underneath the surface of our everyday lives.

There is the very good habit of getting up in the morning and saying your morning offering, your morning prayers, and then, before going to bed, of saying your night prayers (fair enough, at night we are sometimes a bit tired and fall asleep!). Morning and night prayers are a healthy practice that we should renew at this time. We should also renew the practice of the examination of conscience. This doesn’t mean beating ourselves over the head or over the breast about how bad we are. That’s not what it’s about! It’s about turning towards the Lord, allowing the light of his mercy to shine on us so that we can see and say, “OK I can improve on this; I shouldn’t have done that”, etc., but to do it in his presence, knowing that he wants to help us improve, to get better, to be more like him. It’s not merely a case of either breaking rules or observing rules. It’s a case of being faithful to Christ, of allowing the love of Christ to seep more and more deeply into the very fabric of our existence, of who we are.

Fear of death is always going to be there no matter how good someone is; death always makes us fearful for it is the natural reaction to it. But if we are living constantly in the awareness of Christ, seeking to examine ourselves daily and to turn to him daily, then our fear of death will not be anything more than that. It will not become anguished or despairing, it will not be, “O my God, what’s going to happen!” It will be a moment of truth and Christ will say to us, “come ye blessed of my Father because you have tried so hard to feed the hungry and care for the sick,” and so on, “but also because you have sought genuinely, daily, honestly to open your life out to me.”

And so, at this difficult time for all of us, the questions of sin and death and mercy and life are things we should ponder, without alarm, without getting ourselves into a state, but calmly, in the light of the Gospel, in the light of Christ’s love for us. This way we will be ready, should our day come sooner than we expect, to move forward, to move outward towards the Lord as He calls us to Himself.