Death – The End?

The body of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica.
The body of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica.

 

The body of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica.
The body of Pope John Paul II lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica, 2005

Readings: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 / James 3:16-4:3 / Mark 9:30-37
Theme: Death – The End?
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Normally no one would like to lose a dear one especially when the latter is in the prime of his/her life.  Similarly nobody would like to lose a beloved leader.  It was, therefore, no wonder that our nation [Ghana] was overshadowed with the gloom of grief in the early weeks that followed the demise of former president, Prof. John E. Atta Mills.

This background should help us appreciate how Peter and his colleagues felt when Jesus first predicted his death (Mark 8:31, last Sunday’s gospel reading). That reading informs us that, Peter, unable to withstand the thought of their Master dying, took Jesus aside and rebuked him (Mark 8:32). But since Peter was ‘human’ like us, he was so short-sighted of the ways of God that the second part of Jesus’ prediction – his resurrection on third day – did not immediately register in Peter’s mind and heart.  Thus, Jesus had to tell Peter, ‘get behind me satan’, for obstructing the ways of God (Mark 8:33).

Again, in today’s gospel reading, when Jesus predicted his death and resurrection for the second time (Mark 9:31), the gloom of death so clouded the minds and hearts of the disciples that, we are told that, they failed to understand their Master (Mark 9:32). But for Jesus, who does not only know the ways of the Father, but is the very Way to the Father (John 14: 6), death is not the end – for the resurrection follows!

It is customary to have the phrase ‘THE END’ at the end of a movie.  But we know that when we watch a movie and see this expression it doesn’t mean the END of the actors and actresses, not even the END of those who died in the movie; for soon we see them active in another movie, or we see then in actual daily life.  Similarly, death is not our END BUT THE BEGINNING of another state of life.

As someone may appear sad and poor in a movie but may be a happy-rich person in real life, and vice versa, so is life after death.  Some of us may experience problems and poverty in this life but God will make us happy and rich forever in heaven.  On the other hand, some may enjoy the good things of this life and failing to be faithful to God, would experience the pain and poverty of hell.

Beloved, it is through Jesus Christ that God changes our fate for better; it is through Him that our life after death is made forever joyful in heaven.  Yes, He who came to suffer and die, taking upon Himself the misery of humankind, arose on the third day to demonstrate that in Him, DEATH is NOT OUR END, BUT THE BEGINNING OF A FAR SURPASSING BETTER LIFE!

It is therefore no wonder that Paul, who initially persecuted Christian for what he thought was the ‘false mongering’ that Jesus had risen from the dead, would boldly proclaimed after he had personally experienced the Risen Lord that: ‘our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body’ (Phil 3: 20-21).

The message of our citizenship in heaven reminds me of what a friend told me last year when I visited him in UK. I had asked him if he were a British citizen after many years in UK. He then answered, ‘Father because I have the ambition of becoming an MP [Member of Parliament] in Ghana, and dual citizenship would disqualify me, I have only RESIDENT and WORK PERMITS in UK.’  Beloved, similarly, let’s take only RESIDENT and WORK permits on this earth, while we keep our citizenship in heaven, where we aspire to become MPs [Members of Paradise] of heaven.

After all, life on earth [like the two or three hours of a movie] is short.  Many of us desire to live up to 80 years of age, but that is merely 29,220 days on earth [less than mere 30,000 days]; even the person who has clocked 100 years of age has lived for merely 36,525 days [less than mere 37,000 days]; and certainly in our era, if not all humans, then 99.9999999% of us will live for less than 50,000 days on earth.

Beloved, we should therefore CAMPAIGN to become MPs of heaven [Members of Paradise].  This campaign is done not by TV adverts, posters, public speeches, etc., but by FAITH & GOOD LIFE STYLE.

We are ELECTED as MPs [Members of Paradise] not by PEOPLE casting the majority of votes for us, but by GOD who examines the genuineness of our FAITH [our voting paper] and LIFE STYLE [our thumb print].

We ride into the parliament of paradise not by four-wheel drives or luxury cars, but on the WINGS OF ANGELS [Thus, the priest says at the funeral Final Commendation: ‘MAY THE ANGELS LEAD YOU INTO PARADISE’].

We are SWORN into the office of the DIVINE PRESENCE, not by repeating the oath of office after the human Chief Justice, but by Jesus, the SUPREME Chief Justice, whose own precious Blood, which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel, pleads on our behalf and obtains the mercy of God for us!

CONCLUSION
Finally, I pray that you and I will always campaign for the Membership of PARADISE, be elected by the Lord after He has examined the genuineness of our voting paper [our FAITH] and thumb print [our LIFESTYLE], ride on the wings of angels, and be sworn into the Divine Presence, not for only a short term four or eight years, but for eternity, Amen!

By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis

Fr. John Louis

Fr. John Louis

Very Rev. Fr. John Kobina Louis is a priest of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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Catholic Homilies and Sermons for the liturgical year by Rev. Fr. Dr. John Kobina Louis of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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