Wisdom 1:13
God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
I need to say at the outset today: “red flag”. That means that part of what I am about to say is my opinion. You can choose to reject this as silly speculation if you wish. I have not been able to find what I am about to say in any of the writings of the saints or officially in the church. But it makes sense to me.
Our reading declares that God did not make death. But that does not mean that he did not intend some sort of a transformation from this life into heaven. The first time we hear of this is in the first book of the Bible. In chapter 5 of Genesis, we read about Enoch who lived three hundred and sixty-five years, where it says that he simply “walked with God” and disappeared from the face of the earth.
We also have the example of Elijah in the second book of Kings, chapter 2. You remember, he was taken up in the fiery chariot and disappeared from Elisha’s sight.
We also have the example of Our Lady who was assumed into heaven.
And some say it is possible that Moses was also taken up into heaven, because no one knows where his grave is. And he appeared to Jesus at the transfiguration with Elijah.
Very well. So much for the biblical examples. My main point is my red flag. This is it: had there never been any sin, every human being would have experienced the transformation of Enoch, Elijah, Mary, and maybe Moses. To my way of thinking, this was God’s original plan. What broke us from God’s original plan was Original Sin.
Death as we know it could be called Satan’s perversion of the plan of God to gather us all into his kingdom. God’s plan was to gather us to his kingdom, and Satan’s plan was to steal us for his. I think he knew exactly what he was doing when he was perverting the commands of God to Adam and Eve. He knew he was leading all of us into death and possible destruction.
So, what is God’s response? First and foremost, it is Jesus. But additionally it is what Jesus left us in the Sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist.
Of course, this is the teaching of the church, no red flag, Baptism is at the same time a death and a resurrection. It is a death to sin, and the resurrection in Christ. This is why the Book of Wisdom says God did not make death.
This is also why, as Catholics especially, we do not need to fear death. Because we have already died the only death that makes a difference: the death of sin in Baptism!
This is why St. Paul has that marvelous section in his letter to the Romans: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As any good evangelical preacher would say at this point “can I get an amen!” Just kidding.
Furthermore, death should never be seen as a punishment. Again, I am returning to my red flags. I do not believe death is a punishment. It is instead the ultimate blessing for Christians. Yes, it is sorrowful for those of us who remain here. And it should be. Death is not something we should pursue, as in suicide. But it is something that we who live in faith should look forward to and embrace.
I know that sounds a little odd. But there is a line in Scripture that says that we as Christian people are called to be a peculiar people. And we will seem that way to a world that wants to hold off the effects of death as long as possible. That is why so many people are so caught up in living longer and living beautifully, as though they are trying to create a perfect life right here and right now.
But that is not only unrealistic, it is unchristian. Our hopes are not set on this world. God did not intend us to remain here, but to enter into his presence, his glory, his love.
Baptism makes us children of God. This is not a fiction but a powerful transformation. Because of baptism we are no longer just human beings, but we are sacred beings. And death has… no… more… power… over us.
But it is not only in baptism that God gives us this new life. I mentioned earlier the other Sacrament of Life: the Eucharist. It is not only food for our bodies but food for our souls. Jesus even said in the sixth chapter of John that if we did not eat his body and drink his blood, we would not have life within us.
So God did not make death. He also did not intend us to remain here. He also did not intend us to remain under the iron fist of Satan. And instead of a fist, he offers us his open hand as a loving Father, as a bridegroom in Jesus, as an intimate… Much more than a friend in the Holy Spirit.
So we are never to be afraid of death. And we can laugh at Satan’s attempt to destroy us. And we can live as we truly are: children of God, coheirs with Christ, inheritors of righteousness, beloved of God.
Father, we have been fearfully and wonderfully made, as King David said. You have made us for yourself. You have made us for glory – your glory. Help us not to fear death, but to embrace whatever leads us to our own deaths for the sake of your glory.
We know death is not your intention, and you remedied that by the death of your Son, and our death in Baptism. Fill our hearts and minds with the longing we need to pursue you into your kingdom. And welcome us after our own sweet Christian death. Amen.