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Welcoming our sister, Death

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 28 July 2013

This week we celebrate the feast day of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

One of the well-known stories about this sibling group from Bethany is the one where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  In the story, we hear the perspectives of Mary, Martha, the disciples, of Jesus, and even of the local community.  But it is striking that we never hear what Lazarus thinks.  What was it like to have died and been buried, only to be uprooted to start again?  And then, in due course, to have to die all over again.  Who asked Lazarus how he felt?

The assumption seems to be that life is better than death, rather than the inevitable other side of the same coin.  Of course when our loved ones die we miss them; our grief is intense and uncomfortable – as it was for Mary, Martha, and Jesus.  But shouldn’t we also be able to let go?  Even for those who have lived long and fruitful lives, like Nelson Mandela, we seem intent on shutting out death, rather than welcoming it.

At our parish weekend away, we illustrated St Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, the song that praises God for all of Creation, and which includes this verse:
    Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
    from whose embrace no living person can escape.

But not even Francis spent his life embracing death: tradition says that he added the Sister Death verse just a few moments before he died! It is not easy to own this reality.

We do not know the day nor the hour when death will come, nor how, nor what will happen in the time left to us.

But die we surely will.  Maybe we could reflect on how ready we are to welcome our sister Death.

Ali Lyon