Some churches have worship on Ash Wednesday, and place ashes, in the shape of a cross, on the foreheads of worshipers. The ashes are a symbol of our sinfulness and mortality (death), and a reminder that Jesus died for our eternal salvation.
Jesus spoke about and faced death in a realistic way. When he came to the tomb (the cemetery) of Lazarus, his good friend had been dead for four days. Jesus wept. Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb, and a new life began!
Jesus didn’t linger in the place of death, even his own. When Jesus is present, life is close at hand! When Jesus is present, even the cemetery is a place of life!
When I was teaching high school in the late 1970s, I taught in a small school of about 200 students. In eight classes, I was a teacher to all the students. I have always said that the best eight classes I ever taught were the classes when my Dad came in and talked with the students. I introduced my Dad, and he spoke for the entire class.
Dad was dying of cancer. When he walked into the classroom, he was obviously not well. Radiation treatments had discolored his skin. He was bald.
He spoke with my students about his feelings and the process of dying, what it felt like knowing you didn’t have a long time left to live. After about a half hour of this, my students began to get “off topic.” They wanted to know about their teacher’s childhood. For the rest of the class, my Dad told some memorable and funny stories about raising seven children. This happened all eight times!
Even this dying man didn’t linger on the topic of death. He spoke about the joys of life to be shared and lived.
Death is a difficult topic to discuss. But we shouldn’t completely avoid the topic. It’s healthy to talk about the death with a dying person, to listen to the sadness of a depressed person, to deal openly with the tragedies of life. We certainly need to be realistic about the sadness, the grief, the stresses of living. Jesus is always present in such times!
But we don’t have to linger there! It’s not good to linger there for too long! We are most healthy when we celebrate life. In life, Jesus is always present!
When Jesus is present, life comes out of depression. When Jesus is present, life comes out of a time of tragedy. When Jesus is present, there is a divine experience of peace deep within one’s soul. When Jesus is present, even the cemetery is a place of life. Jesus is life.