Pope Pius XII famously said “The greatest sin is losing the sense of sin.” This saying comes in 1946, shortly after WWII, which I find profound that he didn’t say the holocaust or hatred of fellow man was the greatest sin; to be fair, I agree with Pope Pius XII.
What is the consequence of sin but death. When sin entered the garden, the result was that we would die and all death is a consequence of the sin of the world. Through one act, all will perish, but there’s more. Through one act of Jesus’s death, all can be saved, a greater gift than the punishment.
“But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s (Adam’s) transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” Romans 5:15
We must never forget why Easter is the most important holiday – it is the moment Jesus triumphed over death. We cannot have Easter, without Good Friday. Most would think, Good Friday, the day we killed our God in the most brutal fashion, wouldn’t be called Good, but we do, because it is good that He laid down His life for us.
If man has forgotten their sense of sin, could they have also forgotten their sense of mortality? Death is the secret hidden away from the forefront of the mind, but not for all. There are many monasteries around the world where death is a constant focus. A popular phrase is memento mori, which is Latin for, remember your death.
Trappist Monk’s are often known to have symbols of death prominently displayed and at one monastery, on the wall is inscribed, “Tonight perhaps?” Another monastery in France, on their cemetery is inscribed, “Today I die, tomorrow it will be you.”
The Catholic faith speaks extensively about death. The Hail Mary ends, “ Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.” We don’t focus on death because we are macabre and dark. It is important that we remember not just Easter Sunday, but we remember Good Friday. We must remember that if we don’t die, we can’t be saved. The fruit must die so that the tree can grow. Rather, we focus on death because it is important to be ever mindful that we live forever and death is not the end. All the tragedy of the world is not the last say. All the misery, and trust me, there is lots of misery if you bother to look, is not just misery in its finality. Jesus offers eternal salvation and only Jesus offers it. If you forget that we perish, that we live in a dangerous world where perhaps, tomorrow is your last day, you forget you need the saving power of Jesus.
Why are Churches full of elderly? Because the elderly can’t escape the thought that their death is getting closer and now, more than ever, they cry out for their Savior. Connecting life and death connects our actions to our judgement.
Why is the Church not full of all ages? Perhaps because the youth have forgotten their mortal.
This pandemic has taught many that we are vulnerable and we live in a dangerous world; death numbers are published constantly and they can’t be ignored. Many think they can just stay home and be safe – that their actions will save themselves, but that’s just not true. Many put their faith in the government to come up with a solution or their doctors, but again, that won’t save either. If 1,000 die every day in the US from the novel Coronavirus, there are another 7,000 that die every single day, in the US, from things other than the Coronavirus. Death and our vulnerabilities are in the news today but death and peril was and is always here.
I know as a Dad that I can’t protect my children from everything. I allow them to bike to their friend’s house, which has hazard. I allow them to have that freedom, but I know there’s risk. When I get nervous, I say a quick prayer to the Blessed Mother to ask for Her intercession for my children’s protection. Mother Mary has more power than my watchful eye, after all. Life’s vulnerabilities help me to connect to my Lord and Savior.
During a Simpson’s episode, Hurricane Neddy, Maude Flanders states after nearly dying, “It was terrifying, I thought I was heading towards the eternal bliss of paradise.” I believe that in actuality the writers were making fun of the religious, but the jokes on them. We do hold out hope for the eternal bliss of paradise, that can only be accessed through death.
Let’s be clear, I am nervous about dying and death, but for a few reasons. The process of dying sounds scary and likely painful. I feel I have more to do on earth to love and care for those that depend on me and therefore, I don’t want to die – even though I’m confident God would provide. I mourn the loss of loved ones, who are no longer with me, which is normal, even if I hold out hope they are in eternal bliss. I also worry about my own judgement. All of these fears are made easier knowing that on the other side of that door awaits the loving embrace of My Lord and My God.
The veil of tears is not the end of our existence. Remembering my death helps me to remember that I have a Lord and Savior and that death doesn’t have the final word. What I do today matters. Life is not, as Macbeth put it, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” but rather, it has a purpose. Remember your death so you don’t forget to strive to be saved. When the pandemic goes and fades away to a bad memory, don’t fool yourself – run to the loving embrace of our Savior and stay with Him. God Bless!