Death, a beginning not an end
- Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - November 2, 2015 - 9:00am

As priest, I get to see many people already on the verge of death. Their families invite me to give them the last sacraments of the anointing, communion or viaticum. If the patients are still able, I would hear their confessions.

But it's the effort to convey the Christian meaning of suffering and death that I find most challenging. I'm aware of the different levels of faith that people have, and it's in how to adapt the doctrine to their level, such that they get to appreciate it, that would leave me gasping for divine inspiration.

I just can't dish out the teaching in the raw. I need to dress it up, using the appropriate words, tone, arguments and examples. I also need a good sense of timing, feeling the pulse of those around to see if my words are entering or not. Indeed, a tricky affair, but all worth it. I learn something every time I do this.

Now that we are in this month of November when we give special attention to our beloved departed, it might be good to meditate once again on the reality of death. In this, what is necessary is to see it always from the point of view of our faith.

It's in our Christian faith that the complete picture of death is shown and explained. It's in our Christian faith where the source, cause and purpose of death are given. It's in our Christian faith where we are told what attitude we ought to have toward it as well as how to take advantage of it, especially because it is unavoidable.

We have to be wary when we just allow ourselves to be led simply by our emotions or some cultural and social beliefs and practices which, while having their valid inputs, do not give us the whole picture. Without the light of faith, these factors sooner or later will give us a distorted and dangerous understanding of death.

Our Christian faith teaches us that death came as a consequence of sin, the sin of our first parents which we now inherit. Obviously, our own personal sins contribute a lot to it.

We have to remember that at the beginning we are meant to be immortal, not only spiritually but also bodily. Together with immortality, we in our first parents before the fall enjoyed the preternatural gifts of integrity and impassibility-the capacity not to suffer.

All these were gone with the sin of Adam and Eve, and death came as the ultimate consequence of sin. Death therefore came to us as a deformation of our human nature in its original, sinless state, and as a divine retribution.

But God is full of love and mercy and he cannot remain in anger with the masterpiece of his creation. He undertook a plan to save us, a long, tortuous and complex one not because of his impotence but rather because of the complex and complicated condition that we have fallen into after falling into sin.

God's plan of human redemption, which he carries out with the fullness of his powers, is not pursued as pure dole-out, a give-away without us corresponding to his plan. He always respects our freedom, no matter how we misuse and abuse it, and leads us back to him, irrespective of how complex the ways to return to him might be.

In this regard, our Catechism teaches: "'God created us without us, but he did not will to save us without us.' (St. Augustine) To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults." (1847)

We now know how this divine plan was carried out to its fulfillment. He sent his Son to us, the Son became man, taught us everything that we need to know for our salvation, and ultimately offered his life on the cross, and then resurrected.

Along the way, he established his Church where we find his living word and his living presence in the sacraments. He endowed it with both visible and invisible gifts so that the redemptive presence and work of Christ can continue to be with us till the end of time. This is how God loves us.

As a result, death has ceased to be a punishment, but rather a means of our salvation. It's not anymore merely an end to life, but is in fact now the beginning of a new and eternal life with God. When seen with faith, death is actually a happy event, not a sad one, since with it one goes home to his Father God.


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