– Christians are bonded with Christ, with the Church and with each other
These days I have been greatly hurt and injured, and consequently surrounded by death and the berieved ones, either at home or in the place of my primary apostolate. The ugly situation is like what Jeremiah was referring to when he talks about the slain in the country and the ravages in the city (14:18). I don’t know who to console and who not to, which words to use and the modality in particular. Thus, I decided to give these few words of consolation to all the berieved Christian faithful as St. Paul did to the Thessalonians as seen in his first letter to them. He consoles them saying: “I do not want you to be unaware … concerning those of us who are asleep, so that you will not grieve over them like people who do not have hope” (4:13).
In these words of St Paul we are already consoled to hear that our dead ones are asleep. Those who are sleeping have hope of rising from sleep. Then, we will have them back, see them again and be with them once more. Continuing, he said: “It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit. Our present perishable nature will put on imperishability and the mortal nature will put on immortality (cf. 1Cor. 15:35ff).
St. Braulio of Saragossa affirms of the resurrection of the body. He says that “Christ, the hope of all who have faith, calls those who leave the world, not the dead but those who are asleep. He says, “Lazarus, our friend is asleep”. May this hope of the resurrection put heart into us since we shall see again in heaven those whom we lose on earth. All we have to do is to believe in Christ and obey his commandments. Such is his power that he can raise the dead more easily than we can arouse from sleeping”. And St. Anastasius of Antioch in one of his sermons says that Christ died and lived again so that he will be Lord of the dead and the living. “For no other reason did he (Christ) descend to earth, whose bars are barriers to eternity, except to “shatter the doors of bronze, and cut in two the bars of iron”.
He also maintains that “We belong not to ourselves but to him who redeemed us. Our will, will always be dependent on his, which is why we pray, “Thy will be done”. That is also the reason that we must say with Job as he mourned, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord!”.
These words of great saints are consoling. Our joy is that our dead ones are alive. We will see them again to part no more.
Our consolation as Christians in the face of death stems more especially from the fact that we are bonded with Christ, with the Church and with one another.
Yes, it is consoling to understand that Christians are bonded with Christ in life and in death. Christ himself maintains that he who eats his flesh lives in him and he in the person. These are strong words that show a strong bonding between Christ and his faithful (cf. Jn 6:56). That is why Christ says that where he is, there his faithful would be too (cf. Jn 12:26), affirming that it is for his faithful that he submitted his life.
On many passages of the bible we read where Christ says that he was going to prepare an abode for his adherents and would come back to pick them up so that he would be with them (cf. Jn. 14:3). Christ also assures his faithful that he came into the world to do the will of his father which is that he would not lose any person given to him by his father. He assures that he is the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in him would live forever.
St. Paul, on his own part, insists that nothing would separate Christ’s adherents from him, not even death (cf. Rm. 8:31ff) and his faithful would see him forever.
This is the hope of all his faithful: if Christ did not die, his faithful bonded with him will not die too. This consoles Christian mourners that they will see their dead ones again and be united with them. If Christ is so bonded to his faithful, this would put heart in them.
Christians are bonded to the Church too. This also consoles those who mourn gravely for their departed one. The doctrine of the Catholic Church holds that there are three Churches: the Church triumphant, the suffering Church and the Church Militant. At one time or the other, a Christian forms part of the interactions between the Churches. The doctrine has it that the members of the triumphant Church intercede for those of the militant Church while the militant ones not only pray through the triumphant ones but on the other hand, they help the suffering Church through their prayers.
It is because Christians are bonded with these Churches that we say that the dead ones are always in contact with the living. This should console mourners too, that they interact with their dead ones and would never lose contact with them but will see them again.
Another consoling message for Christian mourners is that Christians are bonded with each other. Rumi says that for believers there is no final goodbye. “Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. But for those with hearts and souls, there is no such thing as separation”. And George Eliot opines that our dead ones are not dead to us until we forget them. We know that those whom we love so much are always remembered and borne in mind. This is possible because we are bonded with them.
Yes, our good deeds are remembered and these make us remember each other whether dead or alive. For this, Chuck Palahniuk affirms that “We all die. The goal is not to live forever, the goal is to create something that will” live forever; our good deeds.
Thus, the living are advised to remain bonded with Christ, with the Church and with each other. They are advised to stay alert always, bearing good fruits of immortality. And Jean de la Fontaine says that death never takes a wise man by surprise, he is always ready to go”, because according to Buddah “neither fire or wind, neither birth or death can erase our good deeds”.
It is only those who are not bonded with Christ, with the Church and with others that are obliterated. Such people are said, according to the Catholic doctrine, to be in hell. Those in hell are forgotten.
Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Oparaugo wrote from
St. Columba’s Catholic Parish, Amaimo Ikeduru