Weekend Reflections for June 15, 2018
For to Me to Live Is Christ, and to Die Is Gain
St. Paul’s Perspective on Dying
Once while I was visiting a dying Jesuit colleague he somewhat hesitantly shared with me that he was in fact looking forward to his death, being with Christ. I say hesitantly because of his concern that I might be dismayed, perhaps even scandalize by such a statement. I was his religious superior at that time and I knew him fairly well. I was aware that he was very unhappy with many things going on in our world and in the Church. Being with the Lord would be for him a welcomed conclusion and ending for all of this. I simply and gently let him know that I knew where he was coming from and that his desire was quite appropriate.
A similar conversation took place recently with a retreatant. He asked whether or not it was all right to want and desire death. This person was quite ill and suffering considerably. His family was taking good care of him, and he believed that his death would be more of a relief for them than anything else. I assured him that in my opinion his desire for death seemed quite appropriate.
St. Paul addresses this matter in the second reading for this Sunday (II Corinthians 5, 6-10) He tells the Corinthians of his desire to move on to new life with Christ. His preference is to be with the Lord, but if he can do more for the kingdom by continuing his present work, then so be it. We find a similar sentiment in some of his other letters. In his letter to the Philippians(1, 21-24) he says: ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain….My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.’
Our faith in our risen Lord has (or can) freed us from terror of dying and opened for us the wonderful desire and hope to move on and be with him and with all our loved ones.