Editorial – I Want to Live
A hospital Intensive Care Unit is filled with the activity of doctors and nurses, ambient machine sounds of un-explicable (to me) significance, and very sick patients. After administering the Sacrament of the Sick to a man who seemed near death, I was leaving the unit and encountered two relatives of the dying patient. One of them, a young woman, replied to my consoling words, "I don't want anything to do with your God." In a conciliatory gesture, the other woman told me that she was very upset because she had lost other family members over the past few months and now she is facing the death of a favorite uncle.
I am no stranger to loss and to the various expressions of grief. My hospital chaplaincy daily brings me before those at the brink of death and before their families. Mortality is at the core of our earthly life and all of us finally meet its dominance.
In our faith, we are a people of hope in life everlasting through the eternal love and mercy of God manifested by the redemptive crucifixion of Christ and his glorious Resurrection. Although we claim to be an "Easter people," we are a very anxious Easter people. Tied by nature to the known and predictable, we face the inevitable departure from that comfort zone with fear and trembling. Life, however, points us on an irreversible course toward death and it is only faith and, as Helen Keller once stated, our eternal longings that open a farther vision. The tragedy and terror of being torn from a loved one through death evokes a need in some to attach blame and culpability to some source; often, that source is God. In a more logical mood, blaming God for what naturally must occur is foolish and misplaced. Indeed, death is the only way to achieve the eternal joys of heaven. In a way, raging against God could reflect the very presence of the Spirit in a person. Death becomes unacceptable. After a life of giving, sacrificing, pouring out love and care, standing in awe before the beauty and mystery of life, returning to dust and only dust disgraces the totality of human existence. It isn't fair. It isn't right. God agrees. Death, the "wages of sin" is what one despises. God is the object of the faith we possess, the hope we depend on, and the love we require. In the depths of grief, some might misconstrue that God has let them down. Contrarily, this faith, hope, and love are God's assurance that even though life crucifies us on the cross of our mortality, God saves us by the victory of Christ's resurrection.
Dim Eyes, deaf Ears, cold stomach shew
My dissolution is in view.
Eleven times seven near lived have I,
And now God calls, I willingly die:
My shuttle's shot, my race is run,
My Sun is set, my Deed is done;
My Span is measur'd, Tale is told,
My Flower is faded and grown old,
My Dream is vanish'd, Shadows fled,
My Soul with Christ, my Body dead.
- Thomas Dudley
Like the Olea Infirmata, the oil that is the Holy Spirit soothes the soul and sustains the promise of Easter. If we want to live completely, we must live in the Risen Christ. Have a blessed Easter.