Recently, I attended the funeral of a young man. Death is always tragic, but we seem to feel it more when the deceased is someone young, Why is this? Isn't it because we are thus made acutely aware of our own mortality? We expect elderly people to die (distressing, though, their deaths may be to their loved ones) - and we expect to die old ourselves. But, this isn't guaranteed. We could die in fifty years time, or we could die tomorrow. We don't know when we will die, but we do know that we will die!
"It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement... " (Heb. 9:27).
If you knew that you were going to die within the hour, how would you react? I suspect most of us would feel scared and horrified. Why? Isn't it because we consider this life on earth to be all that we have and thus we make detailed long-term plans for our lives and, in some cases, our children's lives? Isn't it because we are afraid of the unknown, and death is the great unknown?
At this young man's funeral many people were asking: Why him? He was a good man, a good Christian, young - he had everything to look forward to. Why did he die?
We may never know, in this life, the full reason why God took this man. But many of us believe that, because this young man believed in Christ and was filled with such goodness, this evil world was not worthy of him; and God has called him home to Paradise.
See the difference when you look at it through spiritual eyes? Non-Christians can see only this life. You live seventy or so years (if you're lucky) and then you die. The End.
But as Christians, we know that life continues after "death". Our soul does not die with our body. This present existence on earth is only a tiny fraction of our whole existence. While we may live for a few years on this earth, we will be living for ever in either heaven or hell.
Isn't it amazing that we spend so much time and effort planning our education, careers, holidays, etc., and little, if any, time in planning where we will spending eternity?
It is like a young person, when they've got their first job, wanting to buy a car. Their parents say no. Save your money and buy a house, they say. They can see the long-term scenario. They know that money spent on a car is wasted money; but a house and property is something that will have value indefinitely, But the child can only see his short-term need - a vehicle so that he can be mobile and go wherever he wants.
We are like that child - seeing only the short-term, We have to quickly reprioritise things, or else we may be in for a rude shock.
This Pascha let us consider the loving work that God has done for us, in sending His beloved son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins, If we believe in Jesus, and trust Him, and turn away from our sins, then death is no more to be feared - it is simply a doorway to a better life.
To quote the Apostle Paul in more detail: "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. "(Heb. 9:27, 28 ).
And St. John Chrysostom confirms: "Let no one fear death for the Saviour's death has liberated us from it.... O Death, where is sin, your poisonous sting? 0 Hades, where is your infamous victory? Christ is risen, and you are utterly defeated!... Christ is risen, and no one will remain dead in the graves!"
from Voice in the wilderness
a publication of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
Parish and Community of St George, South Brisbane