Thursday, March 08, 2007

St. Francis meditating on Sister Death

Mary and ‘our dear Sister Death’
Rev. Luciano Alimandi

Vatican City (Fides Service) - The Season of Lent is particularly appropriate for meditating on the “Novissima” or “newest things” (Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell), especially on death, not only on the significance of death in general, but on our own death. In that hour, known only to God, earthly time will stop for ever, our time will have run out: we will enter a “time” in which we will have moved out of space in order to enter eternal beatitude!

Why is the thought of death often something foreign when instead it should be kept in mind always and especially at times of personal reflection, when we examine our life? We reflect on everything except that hour, indeed it is not even considered, it is ‘forbidden’. Life is given to us to live to the full, death must not be considered as “outside” life. Each us treads an earthly path which has a beginning and an end: birth and death. Visiting the cemetery - called in some languages ‘the campo santo or sacred field’ and stopping in front of a grave we read two dates, and the most important is the second, the date of our ‘take-off’, the date when we are ‘born to eternal life”. This mysterious day should be considered much more often, and not only as the last stage, but as the most decisive stage for which we must prepare conscientiously. That destination draws nearer every day and when the time comes to cross the threshold it will be better for each of us to present ourselves with the pure white robe of eternal life.

Unfortunately the world associates the thought of death only with the purely natural event; for the world at this point there exists only the earth, nothing more. With its false ideology the world pushes death away, as far as possible, convinced that death robs man of everything giving nothing in exchange. The world has always referred to death as an encounter with nothing.

This is the reasoning of the world, the mental prison of the non believer, but for Christians death is not an absurdity, it is not meeting nothing, but rather entering eternal life. In many ways the pagan strives to exorcise the thought and reality of death; but should a believer, one who knows he is on the way to Easter, avoid thinking of death, as if this reality could be a cause of anguish? Certainly not! We are all in need of serious conversion, to replace this earthly mentality with a supernatural mentality, by clinging with our whole self to the unswerving truth that the hour of death is the time of the greatest visitation: God Himself will visit us! How many earthly illusions would cease to we if we were to think about our death!

Our Lord has marked the hour, the day and the place of this special encounter on the calendar. Each of our names is written on His hand, the agenda of eternal life. In that hour, as Jesus promised, He will come in person to fetch us that we may be with Him (cfr. Jn 14, 3). How sweet and consoling then, despite our fear, should be thought of death for a Christian; it is not falling into the abyss of nullity but rather letting oneself float with total confidence on the boundless ocean of God’s loving mercy.

How can we prepare best for our death? Above all with sincere daily conversion. Lent is a good time for this and the Blessed Virgin Mary is our companion on this journey, this great Exodus towards the promised land: Paradise. Every time we recite the Hail Mary we ask Our Lady to do something very important, we ask her to pray “now and at the hour of our death”. When we pray the Rosary there comes to mind and reappears on the horizon of our daily reflection not death but rather the consoling joy of Mary’s presence, because we can be certain that the Lord’s Mother will ensure that “our dear Sister Death” will not find us unprepared for God’s great visit. How embarrassing it would be for us if a greatly honoured guest invited to lunch were to arrive to find the table bare and nothing to eat!

So we must prepare in time for God’s final visit, the day of that special banquet when Our Lord will be our guest. A well loved Italian hymn “When I knock at your door”, says: “Lord… I will have fruits to bring, baskets of grief, bunches of love. I will have loved many people, I will have friends to see again and friends for whom to pray”! When the Lord knocks at our door, His Mother will be there to welcome her Risen Son, and who better than Mary to present us : “here is the child you entrusted to me from the Cross!”

(Agenzia Fides 7/3/2007; righe 59, parole 811)