Thursday, May 06, 2004

Memento Mori

A cousin of Mrs. Athanasius died suddenly a while back, at the age of 37. She died in the shower, with no cause of death discovered. The body was found by the husband. There are three girls, aged three to nine.

I bring this up because there is a very insidious problem in modern Christianity, something that was apparent at the funeral, and in conversations since the funeral. People will ask "Why did she have to die so young?" "Why would God take her?" "Why would God leave her kids without her?" Some have expressed that it is difficult to keep faith in God when such good people die, for no apparent reason.

Now, these sentiments are understandable. I don't blame anyone who has them. But I think such attitudes are fundamentally incompatible with Christian faith.

See, there is an idea hidden behind these statements: "God won't let bad things happen to her/me/the kids." If I pray and do good things (which is another insidious idea, that there really are good people), shouldn't I be rewarded? Shouln't I be able to die peacefully, full of years, surrounded by children and grandchildren? Shouldn't I just slip into heaven as easily as a hand in a glove, with no intervening discomfort? That's the way things should be, God,and if it doesn't work out that way, I'll be mad at you!


I'm going to make a series of statements, all of which are true. Contemplate them. Think about them. Ponder on death (memento mori).
1) All of your friends will suffer.
2) Your children will suffer.
3) You will suffer.

1) All of you friends will die.
2) Your children will die.
3) You will die.
4) #2 and #1 may happen before #3.

1) Some of your friends may have horrible things done to them.
2) Some of your children may have horrible things done to them.
3) You may have horrible things done to you.

1) All of your friends will sin.
2) All of your children will sin.
3) You will sin.

Look around you: all that you hold dear in this world is passing away. You will suffer and die. We all will, Christian and non-Christian alike. Baptism and faith in God changes none of this.

What it does change is that it gives hope. We know that despite all the pain and suffering and death of this life, that there is a place of light, in a place of happiness, in a place of peace, where there is no pain, no grief, no sighing. We know that death is not the end, that bad things are merely temporary, but that the real good Thing (union with God and with loved ones in God) is eternal.

I wrote something a few years ago called "How Many Scandals", where I opined that if there's some level of priest sexual abuse that would cause you to lose faith (50%? 70%? 100%?), then you don't really have faith. It's the same thing with this. If there is some level of suffering X beyond which you aren't prepared to go, then you don't have faith.

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