RELIGION: Is there anything worse than dying?


Is there anything worse than dying?

Perhaps a generation or so ago, our parents and grandparents would have answered yes, there is dying and going to Hell. I don’t know how many would think such thoughts these days. Also I don’t think it is a good answer for living a life of faith; it is born of fear and Christ said perfect love casts out fear. I don’t think Christ was a great proponent of fear as a motivator; he seems to prefer love as the engine of our actions. However there is something to be drawn out of that thought about what is worse than dying and that is that death might not be the worst thing that can happen to a person. Strange as it might sound and completely at odds as it seems to be with modern society’s take on things worse than dying is to live without integrity. As one ancient Greek philosopher said, ‘the difficulty my friends, is not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness’.

It is hard to deny that our world is in a difficult place at present, perhaps even at a critical point. There is war in Europe, rising tensions in Asia, financial difficulties throughout the world, climate worries, artificial intelligence worries, and no one seems to have a solid ground on which to build the future, no one seems to want to remember the past except perhaps the wrongs and the failures of the past. Answers are sought only in the future, that is where, so we are told, hope is to be found. But I find the hope that is on offer is a frail flimsy kind of hope that has no substance in reality. It is hard to find a solid platform upon which we can stand to shape the future.

Remembering the past is at the heart of that first reading; remembering so that the people can live well in the present and have a realistic hope for the future. We learn from the past, from the hard times as well as the good times. We learn what is important, what is necessary and what we can and what we must do without. We learn, as the reading said, that we need more than bread to survive, to live fully.

We all have memories of the past, some are painful some are enlivening. We all remember people who touched our lives in some way – someone who opened us to life and its wonder. Someone who helped us realise there is more to life than not dying. What is important in life is how we live. We remember Christ because he showed us how to live. He shows us how to live with hope and joy. How to live with Truth and integrity. He shows what life is truly about and how to come to the fulness and beauty of what we have been given here in life. Is anything worse than dying? To have lived and not recognised and given thanks to God for his love and mercy in giving us life and in saving us from death.

At the last Supper Christ told us to do this in memory of him. It is not some empty ritual we perform, not some action to comfort and reassure us about our goodness. Here we are given the bread of life; here our eyes are opened to life and we are shown the path to the fulness of life. Eternity is nothing other than the fulness of what we have already been given in Christ. In the Eucharist we have both the promise of eternity and a foretaste of it, because in the Eucharist we have Christ.

Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s and St Peter’s in Dumbarton

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