Whenever I read the accounts of Jesus raising someone from the dead, I wonder why this does not happen today – and particularly by priests who operate in persona Christi. Yes, there are accounts of this happening with some saints, but could it not be more often – especially when someone dear to me dies?
As a priest I have seen many people die in my presence in a variety of ways. Sometimes they are very violent and sometimes they are after very long illnesses. The very first time I administered the Sacrament of the Sick the parishioner died just after I ended the final prayer. It was a beautiful death, if one can really say that, because he was elderly and surrounded by his family with the little children running around unaware of what had just happened. It was amazing to see the whole life cycle of a family of old, middle age and young coming to a beginning and a conclusion.
The reading from 1 Kings shows the anger of a widow at the loss of her child which she blames on Elijah. She associates this death as a punishment for her past sins. It is a common reaction to “feel” that a death of a loved one was a punishment for our own transgressions. But why do we arrive at such conclusions? It certainly casts a negative light on God as an unmerciful judge which, for the serious believer, is known not to be true. Sin can make us very hard on ourselves. We like to find simple solutions to our problems and these make us forget the mercy of God. We have a tendency to blame others, even God, for our misdeeds and the misfortunes. True believers take ownership for their misdeeds and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation so they can get on with their lives. Of course, people do not always forgive what God has forgiven. Sometimes we even do not forgive ourselves for what we have done despite God having forgiven us. That can make people psychologically sick. Another problem, which we do not have complete control over, is getting people to forgive us after we have offended them.
I have encountered many people, even relatives, who are very bitter about deaths of children and loved ones. They conclude that God has done the an injustice and they stop going to church because of this – at least that is their claim. These people even ignore me or just stay on a superficial level of conversation while they steep in their misery. Their inability to go to God makes them unable to go to other people not only for help, but even just to be plain social. Many even isolate themselves from not just priests, but everyone. They become mean and miserable making people avoid them and making them “feel” like nobody cares.
Well, what is the solution? It is important to pray for more faith. Even us priests have to pray constantly for a stronger faith. Faith makes us follow God’s will. Part of God’s will are rules that keep us sane. Left to ourselves we begin to love the things of this world and use people. In the first book of the bible, it makes clear that people are to be loved as images and likenesses to God and things are to be used in a fashion that makes the love of people stronger.
We fallen human beings suffer from concupiscence, making us tend to be attracted to evil. God has revealed to us that this must be countered by a faith that results in action according to God’s will. In fact God has revealed to us that this is how we love him.
I cannot say any good about death in this world. It is an evil that all of us must suffer. For earthly people who fail to see the whole picture, death is the end of the line. For Catholics, death is an opportunity to participate in the death of Christ so that we can make up for what is lacking in the death of Christ – temporal punishment due to sin. It is never pleasant. But when it is experienced in the hope of the resurrection, the true believer begins to see its meaning and value. On a supernatural level, dying joins us to the Communion of Saints. Jesus stands from his judgement seat in heaven and looks down on us with love (Acts 7:56). Jesus sees that our suffering is transforming our soul and possibly the souls of many others through indulgences that can be shared with those suffering in Purgatory. Death for the holy seems to be a “going to sleep (Acts 7:60)” rather than annihilation.
I would also like to extend a special thanks to those who helped the child who got injured in the church last Sunday. The family was very appreciative.
Fr. Vincent Euk