In this week’s blog, Fr Paddy reminds us that while death is inescapable, our Christian belief encourages us to hope.

November

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared on 11th November 2009

November is the time of the year when we remember the souls of all our loved ones who have gone before us. The leaves have fallen and trees stand bare. The land now harvested rests and lies fallow, winter points us to mortality and death, one day with great certainty we too, all of us will die. November is a difficult time of year. The beginning of winter brings long nights and cooler days; this can be a time of loneliness and anxiety, especially for those who live alone. In our Celtic tradition, we have a great sense of our own mortality and vulnerability in this month. The Celtic festival of Samhain was a time to remember all who had gone before us.

Death is difficult and indeed painful. Death strips us of the familiar and leaves us often both naked and vulnerable, with our bereavement and painful losses, which we all have experienced when a loved one dies. The death of a loved one often leaves us asking many questions struggling in finding answers as we wrestle in the coping and continuing of our day to day without a husband or wife, sibling or friend. The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis describing his experience of loss simply said

The tears and loss that I now feel is the love we once shared

Perhaps the two most powerful lines in the entire Gospel describe the human emotion felt by Jesus when his friend Lazarus died – Jesus wept. Jesus knew the pain and hurt that comes to visit when someone we love dies. In fact in order for God to fully embrace the human condition, he also through his Son had to embrace death itself. The humiliating and brutal manner of Christs death united God with all experiences of suffering and persecution. The final words that came from our dying God was a prayer of welcome and wonderful invitation Today you will be with me in paradise.

We know from our experience of the seasons that the leaves will blossom again, that spring will come. Christs death was an ultimate demonstration of love by his father. As he was awoken to new life and resurrection, so too are all of us, who believe in him. As we remember our loved ones who have died and pray for them, we do so with great hope in our hearts. St. Paul tells us that Our true home is in heaven. May all our loved ones enjoy the eternal promise of life and peace in the happiness and joy of Gods presence. Jesus tells us I am going ahead of you to prepare a place for you. So that where I am, you too shall be. Despite the pain of loss that accompanies us when a love one dies, in faith we are encouraged to hope. Hope in the reality that Gods love is even brighter than death itself. Padraig Pearse once told a beautiful story to demonstrate our Christian hope regarding death.

In the month of September the little boy asked his Mother, Where do all the swallows go to? she replied, To the land, where it is always summer.