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To prepare for death is to prepare for life – both sides of death


The unavoidable reality of death is one of the great questions which every person must face, sooner or later. Even for those who live in denial, it is the proverbial great elephant in the room. Because everything in us recoils at the proposal of death (itself the expression of the survival instinct in us or, more spiritually, of the fact that God created us to live, not to die) it is utterly understandable that we would want to put it out of our minds, avoid talking about it and change the subject if death is brought up.

But the fact remains that death must be faced. There is a whole strain of philosophical wisdom which admonishes us to remember death, every day (“memento mori”). Psychologically, it is healthier to consider death and talk about it in the appropriate way even to children when they begin to ask about it. It is, however, only Jesus Christ who provides the solution or answer to the question of death in a way which quashes all of the most human fears about death. For, by literally being born in order to do duel with death, he has taken control of it. There is no longer any reason to fear death. As Jesus holds our lives in his hands, so he holds our deaths. No other power of whatever nature can ever claim any dominion over death. Death is now at the service of Love.

 The reason this is now the incontrovertible truth is because Jesus rose from the dead. This is the most significant fact of human history and of the history of creation. In fact, it is the beginning of the new creation and the new humanity. The glorious, wonderful and consoling point of it for us mortals is that Jesus wants us to share in it. The fears which death dangles in front of us are actually now powerless. They are counterfeit. The fear of imploding into annihilation, the fear of being the slave of some dark and evil power, the fear of being forgotten, the fear of never again seeing those we have loved and who have loved us, the fear that therefore this very life we now live is meaningless because death will render it meaningless: every single one of these fears, and any others you can imagine, is now absolutely devoid of reason. They have all vanished in Jesus.

 Death no longer means an end to life, or casts a spell of meaninglessness over this life. Now, in Jesus, death spells precisely the opposite: that this life has lasting meaning, that this life is the seedbed of life after death. In other words, in Jesus, death means that this life prepares us for eternal life. Keeping the deathless Jesus in our minds, we mindfully live this life until death opens it out and up into the life of Resurrection. Thus, to prepare for death means to live this life in function of eternal life. Death is no longer our master, but our servant. It serves to make us live this life in the wisdom of eternity.