The last enemy

Nov 27th, 2006 | By | Category: Spirituality

At the time of decimalisation in Britain in early 1971, there was reportedly a lady who told a reporter that she didn’t mind the idea of the decimal money but thought that the Government might have waited for the old people to die before they brought the new money in.

Everyone laughed when the story was told.Sometimes, though, there seems to be sense in what she was saying. Sometimes it would be a whole lot easier if things could be put off for just a while.

Sometimes I have to split what I pray for from what I would wish for. Prayers are a serious matter; wishes are mostly a silly matter.

I have to split prayers from wishes because if I had a wish it would be that there would be a twenty year moratorium on people dying, at least on my patch, so that I could get through to retirement without having to stand wordless as another family loses a loved one.

I hate death. I hate all the euphemisms we use for it.I hate watching the grief and the pain.I hate the emptiness that is still there years afterwards.

Christians are never meant to be reconciled to death. Saint Francis, whatever else he may have got right, got it wrong when he spoke of our “Sister Death”.

Scripture never uses such benign terms about something so dark. Saint Paul is quite clear about where we stand.He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:26, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death”. No sisterly regard from that apostle, no ambiguity, death is an enemy that is to be destroyed.

No mistaking what Saint Paul says. No mistaking what Saint Peter says either. The dead were trapped in Hades and Jesus goes to preach to them in order that they might have a chance of escape. The idea that death was a sister would have sounded strange and alien to the Jewish ears of Peter – death was an end, a negation of life.

There will not be a moratorium on death this side of Doomsday, but I will never be reconciled to it. Easter is about its destruction and Christians should be Easter people.

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