THAT’S HOW I WANT TO DIE
Jesus never hides his tenderness towards the two sisters and their brother who live in Bethany. Surely they are the ones who welcome him in their home whenever he goes up to Jerusalem. One day Jesus receives the message: «Our brother Lazarus, your friend, is sick». Shortly afterwards, Jesus heads out for their small village.
When he gets there, Lazarus has already died. When Mary, the younger sister, sees him there, she breaks down crying. No one can console her. When Jesus sees his friend crying, along with the Jews who are with her, he can’t contain himself. He too «breaks down and cries» right along with them. The people remark: «See how much he loved him!».
Jesus doesn’t just cry for the death of a very beloved friend. His soul is broken when he feels the powerlessness of all in the face of death. All of us carry in our deepest heart an insatiable will to live. Why do we have to die? Why isn’t life happier, longer, more secure, more alive?
People today, like those of every age, carry hearts pierced with the most unsettling question, the one that’s hardest to answer: what’s going to happen to each and every one of us? It’s useless to fool ourselves. What can we do in the face of death? Fight it? Give up?
Without any doubt, the most usual reaction is to just forget it and «go on living». But isn’t the human person called to live life and live it lucidly and responsibly? When the end finally comes, do we end up just approaching it naively, irresponsibly, without any place to stand?
In the face of the final mystery of our destiny it’s not possible to appeal to either scientific or religious dogmas. They can’t lead us beyond this life. The more honest approach seems to be that of the sculpture Eduardo Chillida who was heard to say on one occasion: «Concerning death, reason tells me that it is final. Concerning reason, reason tells me that it is limited».
We Christians don’t know more about the next life than anyone else. We too need to approach humbly the dark fact of our death. But we do it trusting radically in the Goodness of the Mystery of God that is unveiled in Jesus. This Jesus is the one whom, without having seen, we love, and without seeing even now, we trust.
This trust can’t be understood from outside. It can only be lived by one who has responded with simple faith to what Jesus says: «I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?». Recently Hans Kung, the most critical Catholic theologian of the 20th century, coming toward the end of his life, said that for him, dying is «resting in the mystery of God’s mercy». That’s how I want to die.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf