Today the Catholic world remembers the dead. We pray for them – mindful of our need for the prayers of all the community of faith. We are in this together.
But fear of death permeates our lives and, I believe, paralyzes many, especially in the US. The Letter to the Hebrews rightly notes that through “fear of death” people are “subject to slavery.” But Christ Jesus, the Compassion of God, has delivered us from the paralysis of fear.
As Henri Nouwen wrote, in Letter to Mark about Jesus,
“The great secret in life is that suffering, which often seems to be so unbearable, can become, through compassion, a source of new life and new hope.
“God has become human so as to be able to live with us, suffer with us, and die with us. We have found in Jesus a fellow human being who is so completely one with us that not a single weakness, pain, or temptation has remained foreign to him.”
And so death does not have to be feared.
Some people have asked me about insecurity here in Honduras, especially about my upcoming move out to the countryside. Sure, I have some concerns but I can’t let myself be paralyzed by fear. But I also feel that my greatest source of security here, outside of God’s Love, is the love and hospitality of the people I work with.
Yes, I’ll die some day. I am sixty-six years old. And so I take comfort in Nouwen’s words in In Memoriam:
“Why do we think that Christian death is an easy death? Why do we believe that a hope for a life with Christ will make our death a gentle passage? A compassionate life is a life in which the suffering of others is deeply felt, and such a life is a life that may also make one’s death an act of dying with others…”