We are all enslaved by the fear of death. We are spiritually sick and our souls are dying. But we are living in denial or blinded by our anger that our needs and wants are not met. John Welshons very perceptively describes our human condition as follows:
“Our cultural aversion to recognising the truth of our mortality is rooted in a psycho-emotional laziness that encouraged us to go to sleep in the first place.”
He quoted Don Juan on the transformative power of facing the reality of our own mortality:
“You don’t have time…. You fool!....Whatever you’re doing now may be your last act on earth….There is no power which could guarantee that you are going to live one more minute… You have no time, my friend, no time. None of us have time.”
Weshons rightly noted that the above statement is not rooted in pessimism but in truth. We read in Psalms 90:12:
“Teach us to number each of our days so that we may grow in wisdom.”
In James 4:14, we read:
“What is life? You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears.”
On Ash Wednesday the ritual of placing ashes on the foreheads of the worshippers is a celebration and reminder of our human mortality:
“Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”
Such reminders are so important as we live in a culture that avoids talking about death and so many of us are not prepared for it. It is sad that so often we need to face a terminal illness before we begin to look at life differently, to change our priorities in life and to treasure each day and each moment of our lives.
John Welshon rightly noted that one can live to be one hundred years old and still be confused, frustrated and embittered. On the other hand, one can die at the age of ten feeling fulfilled and complete. In the final analysis, it is not how long we live or even how well we live but how we have been the channels of God’s love and grace.
Lent is a season to draw close to God, to look at our lives and to identify our weaknesses. This is not a practice to make us feel sorry for ourselves but to recognise our need for the resurrection power of Christ. In a Charlie Brown cartoon, Linus told Charlie Brown, “Nothing goes on forever. All good things must come to an end. After some thought, Charlie Brown asked, “When do the good things start?”
It dawned on me that good things start when we come to terms with our deaths. Only then will we begin the journey from the prisons of our fear of death to the paradise of God’s eternal love. Unless we learn to die to our egocentric ways of thinking, we cannot be alive to God and to live in the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now.
Lent is a time to reflect on the hindrances in our lives – greed, pride, lust, sloth, anger and other negative feelings that keep us from experiencing the presence of the divine in our daily lives. We also need to face our guilt and doubts that make us hide from God.
Many of us are “dying” for a life of happiness. Some of us are in the process of dying and need to prepare for a life beyond the grave. But all of us need to learn to die to self in order that we may truly be alive in Christ.