Life seems fragile in the face of death

Throughout life we’re confronted with impermanence, nothing stays the same, everything changes. We forever seem to be saying goodbyes or farewells.

Throughout life were confronted with impermanence, nothing stays the same, everything changes. We forever seem to be saying goodbyes or farewells.

Over the last number weeks many of our young people in various schools have been preparing for leaving, starting the next stage of their journey. Whilst technology has made contact and keeping in touch easier the physical face to face encounters often come to an end. A few weeks ago I celebrated the last ever exam/leavers’ Mass in Immaculate Conception College which is certainty a poignant occasion in the history of the Waterside and Top of the Hill in particular. I often reflect back to leaving Saint Patrick’s Pennyburn and Saint Joseph’s Boy’s School. The significance of moving on never really struck me until a long time afterwards. Only this week I met someone in hospital who was in my infants’ class, the last time I saw her must have been nearly thirty years.

I didn’t recognise her until she explained who she was, I then laughed as she mentioned how we apparently friends on Facebook. There have been so many faces I haven’t seen since leaving either primary or secondary school. Only recently I met quite a few of my former teachers attending the funeral of Niall McCafferty. Mr McCafferty was my principle throughout my seven years in Saint Joseph’s and he certainly had the school close to his heart as he campaigned for educational equality. As you get older you’re confronted with the loss of familiar faces and voices. The absence of family and friends who have helped to shape your life creates a void and a sense of emptiness. In time you learn to cherish your memories of them which can become some source of comfort in our sorrow and grief. Yet when you attend wakes and celebrate funerals you can become weighed down by a sense of despair, life can seem very fragile and in the face of death were vulnerable and helpless.

The Christian response in the face of death should be hope, yet in the immediate aftermath when consumed with pain and anguish this can be difficult. More than likely this was how the disciples felt when their world was shattered by Jesus death on the cross. Slowly through their encounters with the risen Christ a community of believers was formed who were empowered to become witness to the reality that Jesus didn’t remain in the grave. Continuing his reflection on the feast of the Ascension Pope Benedict explains how Jesus had to go away in order to become present in a new way. The disciples were convinced Jesus had returned to the right hand of the Father. In ascending Jesus has not gone away so some distant place or dimension, his going away allows a new form of closeness. Beyond the limits of the physical Jesus is now present throughout history and in every place. The only distance between God and us is a journey of the heart. Likewise our love ones are no further than the God of love.