Sunday, 4/2/17 – Death Doesn’t Have the Final Say

The readings for Mass today are very powerful, profound … and beautiful.  Other than the account of Jesus’s own death and resurrection, there is no other story in the bible that moves us more deeply than the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Maybe it is because we are afraid to die.

There is a place deep inside each one of us … that we push to the back of our mind and refuse to think about, or even face sometimes.  The thought of our own death can be terrifying.  It is the greatest mystery of life, the most important question that mankind has ever grappled with since the beginning of time.

What happens when we die?  Is there life after death?

Atheists believe that we are like the animals.  When we die, everything just goes black and we cease to exist.  There is nothing beyond the grave.  There is no other world than the one that you can see and touch.  If you can’t see it or touch it, then it doesn’t exist.  (Never mind that love is something that you can’t hold in the palm of your hand and look at it either, and yet we all know that love is real.)

Everyone reading these words today believes in love though.  We believe that love endures forever, and it is indeed the only thing that will matter in the end.  Love is all there is.  Everything else is fool’s gold …

Jesus illustrates this in a profoundly beautiful way today.  He does this not only through the spoken words in today’s gospel, which are eternally beautiful in and of themselves … but equally so, Jesus manifests His love through his actions.

The gospel said that Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.  After he asked them where they had laid Lazarus, the gospel said that Jesus wept.  Jesus actually cried.  He stated earlier that he was glad that he had not been there when Lazarus died, that “this sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.”  But, if Jesus knew ahead of time that he would raise Lazarus from the dead – then why did he cry?  The gospel said that Jesus was in great distress upon his arrival and then he cried when he saw Martha and Mary.

Perhaps the reason that Jesus was in great distress, to the point of crying himself, is because he loved them.  He hurt with them.  It hurt him – that they were hurting.  Jesus joined in Martha and Mary’s suffering, immersing himself in what they were feeling in that moment.  Far from standing on the outside looking in, Jesus in his compassion, entered into their suffering.  He cared what they were going through and wanted to take the pain away.

This is something that we all need to think about.  We shouldn’t blame Jesus when we suffer, like Mary did when she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus doesn’t stand off at a distance watching us suffer, without entering into our suffering too.  He is there in every moment of our suffering, but especially when our suffering is greatest.

The Lord is no longer here in the flesh though.  He has no hands or feet, but ours.  The body of Christ is His people, who are there to journey with us all the days of our lives, even through the experience of death.  When we suffer, we can see His face reflected in the faces of those around us who love us too.  But, Jesus is also there in the Spirit, supporting us and strengthening us with His love and His peace.

Death doesn’t have the final say.  Jesus Christ does.  Jesus Christ loved us so much that He died for us, of His own free will.  He died for us so that we do not ever need to fear death again.  Death is but a doorway into eternal joy.  A doorway that leads to Jesus and everyone that we have loved during our lives.  Love is what lives on – forever.

Jesus told Martha in today’s gospel, just before he raised Lazarus from the grave:

“I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live.
And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Then, Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?”

 

How would you answer Jesus?  Do you believe this?

Your answer, is the only answer that matters – to the greatest question that mankind has ever asked.

 

Sunday Mass Readings:

Ezekiel 37: 12-14 / Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 / Romans 8: 8-11 / John 11: 1-45

About the Author

Welcome to A Catholic Moment! My name is Laura Kazlas and I'm the creator and founder of A Catholic Moment. Catholics read a lot of different things on the internet these days, but this website is a place for Catholics to read, reflect, and discuss the daily readings for Mass. Our website is run entirely by a group of volunteer writers who have a genuine love for the scriptures that we have for Mass each day. I was personally raised by atheists, but came to believe in God and was baptized because of the words in sacred scripture. I later became a Catholic because of the Mass. The first time my husband took me to Mass, I thought it was the most holy, beautiful sense of worshiping God that I had ever experienced. I still do. My husband John and I have been married for 30 years. We have a son, a daughter, two granddaughters, and a cat. I currently serve as the coordinator of Catholic prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Portland Oregon, in the USA.

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12 Comments

  1. Hello Laura.

    Thank you for the reflection. However, there is one point i have to bring up.

    I believe it was in his Summa Theologica that St. Thomas Aquinas stated that there are vegetative souls (in plants), sensitive souls (in animals) and intellectual souls (in humans).

    While that doesn’t answer the question of what happens to animals when they die, I am not so convinced using animals as an example of “nothingness in the hereafter” is a great reference point.

    I am a lay person and don’t have the answers. I am thinking I’ll ask a priest about it for clarification.

    Once again, thanks for the reflection.

  2. Yes, I would be very interested in what the priest has to say about animals having souls. I did ask a priest that question once because I wanted to know if my dog would be in heaven, and he said no, that animals don’t have souls. However, it’s possible that was just our priest’s opinion. I sure would like to hear what you find out though.

  3. Happy Sunday Laura. Thank you for that great and inspiring reflection. I believe Lord, help my unbelieve.

  4. Hello, Laura and O.
    Reading what you,said about animals, remembered my mother saying that when she went to the Jesuits in London, UK to learn about the Catholic faith, someone in the class asked this very question – will my dog go to heaven? The priest answered, “Everythng necessary for your happiness will be there for you.” So maybe, while animals themselves may or may not have souls, the love we have for them endures beyond death. Food for thought……?

  5. Hey Laura,

    A simple quote for you to ponder:

    “When you get to the end, I hope you know it won’t be there”.

    Mark

  6. Laura,
    Thank you SO much and God bless you!!! The readings for today are so full of messages and the imagery of Lazarus rising when we already know Jesus will do the same in a few weeks is beautiful and raises the spirit inside of us too. This weekend’s readings and today’s commentary from you truly gave me a Lenten experience like never before! At this point I feel very ‘tuned in’ and my heart and soul are brimming with joy and some love. Praise God that He gave us Jesus; and I am on that path to really grasping the total power and feeling of true LOVE!!!

  7. Beautiful reflection, Laura. Thank you for reaffirming that we all must hope in Jesus Christ. I love this passage of the Bible too. Jesus lets us know He enters into our suffering like he does on the cross. In another passage He tells us, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” In the middle of a ‘storm,’ we can know Jesus is in the storm with us, holding our hand.

  8. I keep in mind that a person’s private revelations are not on par with the God’s revelation in the Bible. However, I do find the reported near death experiences of many to be very interesting, often comforting – and many include the seeing of animals in heaven:)
    I read the book “Imagine Heaven” and found it very interesting. The author has not had a near death experience but he has compiled a large amount a data on them and included much scripture in the book. I thought the book was thought provoking, though somewhat repetitive and perhaps could have been better written. I did find that it decreased my fear of death dramatically.

  9. Hi Laura. Our priest also pointed out the fact that 4 days was enough time to rule out any pseudodeaths and that decomposition of the body was taking place already.

    I find it alittle dissapointing though that Lazarus did not leave any accounts of this death experience, perhaps it was by design so that death remains a mystery. What is significant though is that his resurrection brought glory to God through his son and continues to do so today.

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