Ecclesiastes 11:9 – 12:8
Rejoice in your youth, you who are young;
let your heart give you joy in your young days.
Follow the promptings of your heart
and the desires of your eyes.
But this you must know: for all things God will bring you to judgement.
Cast worry from your heart,
shield your flesh from pain.
Yet youth, the age of dark hair, is vanity. And remember your creator in the days of your youth, before evil days come and the years approach when you say, “These give me no pleasure”, before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;
the day when those who keep the house tremble
and strong men are bowed;
when the women grind no longer at the mill,
because day is darkening at the windows
and the street doors are shut;
when the sound of the mill is faint,
when the voice of the bird is silenced,
and song notes are stilled,
when to go uphill is an ordeal
and a walk is something to dread.
Yet the almond tree is in flower,
the grasshopper is heavy with food
and the caper bush bears its fruit.
while man goes to his everlasting home. And the mourners are already walking to and fro in the street
before the silver cord has snapped,
or the golden lamp been broken,
or the pitcher shattered at the spring,
or the pulley cracked at the well.
or before the dust returns to the earth as it once came from it, and the breath of God gave it.
Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. All is vanity.
At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, “For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: The Son of man is going to be handed over into the power of men.” But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he just said.
The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring that is supposed to restore the youth of anyone who drinks from its waters. In August, the famous magician David Copperfield, now 50, claimed to have discovered this fountain on an island he purchased in the Bahamas.
Throughout history, mankind has been seeking immortality. From the elixir of life that alchemists of old tried to make, to legends of vampires said to live forever, to futuristic science of cryonics (preserving humans by freezing) made popular by movies such as Demolition Man, to present day cosmetics like plastic surgery where men and women desperately want to look younger, it is clear that we fear ageing. We fear ageing because we fear death.
In today’s gospel, we read of the disciples not being able to understand, or perhaps not wanting to understand, that their Lord and master, Jesus, was going to be handed over to other men and that he was going to die. In another passage, Peter takes Jesus aside and tells him not to speak of such things.
But Jesus has never feared death, because he knows what comes after death. In the gospel according to John, Jesus asks Martha: Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Does that teaching of the church mean anything to us? Do we sincerely believe that after our mortal body dies, our soul will live on eternally?
Throughout our lives we will experience the deaths of various people in our lives. Already we know something to be true – those who do not fear death, but welcome it instead, are those who have lived a holy life; they are those who have had a close relationship with God, and they know that death is the only way that they are ever going to meet God face to face. Hence they do not fear death; they welcome it, like St. Francis of Assisi did when he added the final verse of his Canticle of the Sun praising Sister Death.
Just that word itself seems to send chills down your spine, doesn’t it? But to us who have faith in Jesus, death poses no threat to us, but is instead the doorway to meeting God. The question is: are we ready to meet him? If we are not trying our best to live holy lives, and to have a loving and total relationship with God, then no wonder we’re afraid of death.
Death is coming for you. You never know when, where, or how, but it’s going to come for you. What on earth are you doing to prepare yourself to meet God?
Dear Jesus, we place our faith in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting in you, for you, O Lord, are the resurrection and the life. Help us Lord Jesus, to become friends, close friends, with you, so that when death finally comes for us, we will be ready and eager to welcome it and meet you face to face at last. Amen.
We praise you, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your will.
No second death can do them harm.
- Canticle of the Sun, final verse