When I was a novice, we had the chance to watch a movie entitled “Departure”. From the title itself it sounded like aeronautics thrills, flights, or airports. But, surprisingly it was about the noble task of preparing bodies for burial. It portrayed the care, respect and entering into that scenario of paying last respect to a body created with dignity. That was the very time I began thinking and pondering on the mystery and dignity of death. In the frst place, I saw and realized from the movie, how noble a man could be to prepare the last vestments and details of a fellow human person for his or her entrance to the next life.
In 1 Cor 15: 55 says: “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” Death, a word, I myself am so apprehensive to talk about and the truth about it. In reality, I shrink about the thought of death of my own but the most important person in my life. Experiences of death of dear friends, a sibling, a parent, grandparents, and my own community members have pierced me to the inner core as it would to many others. All I could ask from the Lord for is strength and the comfort that I wish too, for many who pass through this difficult experience.
Since the start of 2022, I have gone to more or less half a dozen funerals, mostly women but one was a father of our own sister in the community. In fact, I used to join in this works of mercy with my grandma since I as a kid. I have witnessed the bitterness and struggles of dying, of passing away as well as the pain felt by those left behind the guilt or the sense of emptiness due to the loss of a loved one. Goodbyes were most often goes with a sob. One truth is, most of us were ready to live but not as conscious to meet life’s end one day. Most of us have lived thinking of security and confidence as if tomorrow never ends, that we can defy any tempest. We assure ourselves of continuity, of enough grains in the barn. We think of our future expenses and well-being… We think of others less and less and worse, we rely on our securities and insurances in which not everybody shares.
Lately, with this dreaded pandemic, the lives of people have been at its greatest risk. In fact, we were globally shaken as if were like swept from the ground that we once consider a safe and solid foundation. Indeed Covid 19 awakened us all to this sense of oneness, of limitedness, helplessness as with all of humanity. We have experienced this firsthand, in our very own communities! We all were vulnerable and still are, in great risk to almost every place we go, even in our own homes if the virus is nursed there.
Many wise people say, no one prepares nor is ready for death that even the strongest, the richest or the gentlest. But the truth of the mystery is, we die as we have lived. Only one hope remains, Jesus is our way to resurrection. Thus, St Paul in Rm 8: 11 reminds us: «… if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you». Death has no power over Him.
A common slogan since March 2019 when Covid travelled throughout the globe: “Stay safe, stay home”. I believe one powerful statement of Pope Francis in his public audiences, “our salvation is to return to our own home”. This then, is an appropriate invitation to go to “home”, go deeper into our inner circles, our hearts. Build our inner lives, journey to this God given gift with gratitude and solidarity, lend a hand to those who need us, our shoulders in the tough times of life, in moments of grief and loss. Our world needs our fragility to help build strength together, to gather the courage in the worst moments of existence as St. Catherine was, to strengthen, help to forgive and be reconciled. For from which, we begin to affirm by faith in God and in each other that, we are no different from the rest of the world, that we are equally created with dignity, equally gifted with presence, His abundance with the graciousness of a Maker to breathe on us His Spirit to life.