These images are simple, but the truths they tell us are profound!
Devotion to St. Joseph as patron of a good death, and the idea of preparing for death are not a theme and “legacy of the past.” Instead, “our relationship with death is never about the past – it always present,” said Pope Francis on February 9 as he considered this devotion to St. Joseph.
He noted how his predecessor, Benedict XVI, has just spoken about his own reflections on death, and that we should thank him for his message given with “this clarity.”
It is good advice that he has given us, isn’t it? The so-called “feel-good” culture tries to remove the reality of death, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought it back into focus in a dramatic way. It was terrible: death was everywhere, and so many brothers and sisters lost loved ones without being able to be near them, and this made death even harder to accept and process.
A nurse told me that she was in front of a grandmother who was dying, and who said to her, “I would like to say goodbye to my family, before I leave.” And the nurse bravely took out her mobile phone and put her in touch with them. The tenderness of that farewell…
A Christian perspective
Even if we try to banish the thought of our finality, we can not remove the power of death, the Pope said. And our Christian faith is not about taking away the fear of death, but rather, “it helps us to face it. Sooner or later, we will all pass through that door.”
There is one certainty: Christ is resurrected, Christ is risen, Christ is living among us. And this is the light that awaits us behind that dark door of death. Dear brothers and sisters, it is only through faith in resurrection that we can face the abyss of death without being overwhelmed by fear. Not only that: we can restore a positive role to death.
The mystery of Christ helps us “to look at all of life through fresh eyes,” Francis said. He went on to offer some little reminders about how to think of death.
- I have never seen a moving van following a hearse! Behind a hearse, I have never seen one.
- We will go alone, with nothing in the pockets of our shroud: nothing. Because the shroud has no pockets.
- It makes no sense to accumulate if one day we will die. What we must accumulate is love, and the ability to share, the ability not to remain indifferent when faced with the needs of others.
- What is the point of arguing with a brother, with a sister, with a friend, with a relative, or with a brother or sister in faith, if then one day we will die?
- What point is there in being angry, in getting angry with others? Before death, many issues are brought down to size.
- It is good to die reconciled, without grudges and without regrets!
- I would like to say one truth: We are all on our way towards that door, all of us.
- The Gospel tells us that death comes like a thief. That is what Jesus tells us: it arrives like a thief, and however much we try to keep its arrival under control, perhaps even planning our own death, it remains an event that we must reckon with, and before which we must also make choices.