Posted by: frroberts | November 13, 2017

Death comes to us all

On a Saturday in late November of 1990, my dad and I went up to South Bend for the Notre Dame-Penn State game.  The Irish were ranked #1 and all that they had to do was beat the Nittany Lions in order to play for the national title in the Orange Bowl.  Despite jumping out to a 21-0 first half lead, my team went on to lose on a last-second field goal.  I talked my dad into staying for the Notre Dame-Iowa basketball game that started about an hour after the game across the street in the Joyce Center.  My father left a message on our brand new answering machine letting mom know we would be back late.

But my mother never checked.  When we walked in around one in the morning, she was still awake and just a little short of hysterical.  She was certain that we been in a car crash driving back from South Bend.  She had called all the state highway patrol posts from South Bend to Logansport trying to find out if we were dead.  What made matters worse was that minutes before our arrival a couple of police cars pulled up in our neighbor’s driveway.  My mother thought that they had gotten the wrong house and the police would soon be coming to tell her that her husband and son had both died.

Eventually my father was able to smooth things over, my mother calmed down and we all got bed.

The next day after Mass we learned from our neighbors the reason for the police visiting their house the night before.  Their son, who has just gotten his driver’s license, had been killed in a car crash while my dad and I were on our way back from South Bend.  Human intuition is a strange thing.  My mother literally sensed that death was in the air.  And she was right.

We do not like talking about death.  In our age, death, along with religion and politics, is not mentioned in polite conversation.  Avoidance of death might be common today, but this attitude toward death does not easily square with a lively Christian faith.  While a certain fear of death is unavoidable because we tend to fear the unknown, we who have come to believe in and live in Jesus Christ have nothing to fear when it comes to death.

In our second reading, which Saint Paul wrote during his imprisonment as he awaited execution for being a follower of Jesus, the Apostle to the Gentiles writes confidently that “the time of my departure is at hand.”   This reference to death is not the first time that Paul has reflected on the question in his letters.  Elsewhere Paul questions whether it is better for him to live or continue his ministry or die and be with the Lord in heaven.  Paul could see the profit that would come to him and others if he continued to preach the Gospel.  He also realized that being with Christ in heaven was his ultimate goal.  In the end, he left the question to Providence.

At times we wonder if some people believe that science will eventually advance so much we will be able to live forever.  It can seem like many of our politicians encourage us to think this way when they talk about health care reform.  Some will play to our fear of death by telling us that those that can afford it will lose access to health care if the system changes.  Others will play to our fear of death by telling us that changes in the system will mean greater access to health care for those who cannot afford it now.  None of them admit that no matter how much access to health care any of us has, 100% of us will die.

For a Christian, death is “falling asleep in the Lord.”  We do not say goodbye to loved ones so much as we take temporary leave from them, having faith that we will be reunited in Heaven at the high wedding feast of the Lamb, the fulfillment of what we do every time we come together for Mass.  Death is simply a transition from a preliminary stage of existence to the a final one.

We conclude with a question, a simple and terrible question worth contemplation for all of us, “If I were to die tonight, would I go to heaven?”


  1. Interesting read, my students are in the process of reading the Morality play, “Everyman”. This was good food for thought for me today.


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