Monday, 23 September 2019

Peace and joy for those we have lost

WHEN a loved one dies our lives seem to go on hold. While the world around us carries on at its usual pace, apparently oblivious to our loss, we are left to deal with our grief, the seemingly endless paperwork and, of course, making funeral arrangements.

We recently suffered such a loss. Although my mother-in-law had seen her 91st birthday, her death, when it came, was unexpected.

As the funeral arrangements were being made and we were coming to terms with our loss, it became a time when we needed to reflect once again on the Christian perspective on death.

There is a line in the Requiem Mass that seems to sum it all up: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.”

How can we be so certain that at death life doesn’t end but is changed?

We know that Jesus walked this earth, flesh and blood like us. We know that he died on the cross and was laid in a tomb. After three days he rose from the dead and over 40 days appeared to hundreds of his followers. Not as a ghost but someone who could be touched and who could eat. He then returned to his Father.

Through his suffering and death, he re-opened the way to heaven. Where Jesus, as flesh and blood went, we can follow. God didn’t create us just to snuff us out but invites us to spend eternity with him.

At my mother-in-law’s Requiem Mass there was no eulogy because at that moment we were not looking back but looking forward. We were praying for her as she made the transition from this life to her true life as a child of God in heaven.

Sir Thomas More expressed such hope when he wrote to his daughter while waiting to be executed: “Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you, and for all your friends, that we may merrily meet in heaven.”

May all those we have loved and lost experience the peace and joy of heaven.

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