Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Responding to Death

Grounding our life in the Eucharist gives us hope even in the face of death.

By: Chris Padgett

The inevitability of death can cause us to respond in different ways. Some choose to entertain themselves regularly so that they never have to contemplate their mortality.

Some choose to defy death by living on the edge, participating in extreme sports and daring expeditions and facing life with a seemingly defiant attitude that looks death in the face. A few are paralyzed with fear, assuming that every act or choice will bring their demise. We cannot in good conscience embrace these extremes: numbing avoidance, indifferent defiance, or paralytic immobility.

For the sinner and for the saint, there is a day coming in which we will leave this world for another. If we choose to believe that there is nothing facing us on the other side, then what we know and experience is all that is or will be. It is a sad state of affairs to find the end of life in view with no hope whatsoever of another journey that awaits us. There are two roads, and we choose one or the other every day: to believe there is something on the other side of the veil or not to believe.

But the fact that our lives have been truly grounded and resurrected in Christ Jesus and sustained by the Eucharist should give us a sense of hope in spite of death’s looming approach. Our state of mind, then, should be quite different from someone who has resisted the invitation of the Spirit throughout his life. And if we can believe the stories of the saints who have articulated insights from the world to come, then we can attain a great sense of peace.

Some of the saints would write and reflect upon the meaning of life with a skull on their desks. This constant acknowledgment of death wasn’t rooted in morbidity; rather, it grounded them in their mortality. Realizing that they were not immortal reminded them to live each day as if it were their last. Contemplating their mortality energized and enabled them to strive towards holiness, even when the odds were against them. People like St. Polycarp faced martyrdom, refusing to compromise his faith to gain an extra day, month, or year of his life. He knew that each day was a gift from God and that the immortality that awaited him was of greater importance than living this life without integrity. The saints show us that life is far more valuable than we might have previously realized, and as a result, we must not carelessly pursue things that rob us of grace and purpose.

Prayer Starter: How can I live each day as if it were my last?

This article is an excerpt from Why The Eucharist Matters by Chris Padgett, which is available from the Word Among Us Press.

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