Daily Reflection
November 13th, 2001
Kathy Kanavy
Institute for Priestly Formation
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Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
Wisdom 2:23--3:9
Psalms 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19
Luke 17:7-10

…But the souls of the just are in the hands of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
…Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
...Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect. 

This beautiful reading from Wisdom draws us into the mystery of death, a reality that we rarely like to confront.  In fact, so deep is our fear of death, that we often fill our days with needless distractions and activities.  Why do we fear death so much?

The passage from Wisdom, I believe, speaks to a deep fear within our hearts of “utter destruction.”  We fear annihilation and the destruction of those we love and of our own self.  Death seems to yield utter destruction. 

The truth is that death in Christ brings us to peace.  Out of the love of the heart of the Trinity, Jesus has shattered the power of death, redeeming us and drawing us into life everlasting.  Look again what the Wisdom text says about those who have died:  “…they are in peace; …he took them to himself; …those who trust in him shall understand truth; …the faithful shall abide with him in love; …grace, mercy…care are with his elect.”  How deeply comforting!

In this time of the year when the Church invites us to reflect on death, I invite you and myself to look death squarely in the eye.  What do you most fear for those you love?  Can you admit this and say this directly to God?  If you have lost someone you love, do you have a sense that they are “in peace?”  You might want to ask God directly for the grace to know this and to know their presence with you in the communion of saints.  And for yourself, what do you most fear about your own death?  Can you say this to God with brutal honesty?

In the midst of these days of war and tragedy, death has been more tangible to us than it normally is.  The gift of today’s reading lies in inviting us to face our fears around death.  In boldly relating these fears to Jesus who has died for us and shattered the power of death, we will know more His presence with us in our fears.  Then we can taste a bit more with all the saints, “Death, where is your sting?”

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