by Ken Rolheiser
Fear of death and God’s vast love

According to Seinfeld, people's number one fear is public speaking. Somehow this ranked even higher than death; which means people would rather be in the coffin at a funeral than give a speech.

Another of my favorite jokes about death is, “I sure will be glad when scientists discover a cure for ‘Natural Causes’.” Then there is the message on the tombstone of the hypochondriac: “I was right!”

Actually there is a lighter side to dying and there are reasons we should not fear death. Every day of the year, 365 times, we could read from the bible “Do not be afraid”, and not read the same passage twice.

One of my favourites is Isaiah 10:1 “Do not fear, for I am with you.” But the coming of Jesus brought joy in other ways: “And the angel said unto them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people’.” (Luke 2:10). A Saviour was born for us.

Yes! Another favourite passage of mine underscores this: “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 43:1); followed immediately by “I have called you by your name. You are mine.”

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” Jeremiah 1:5). The thought of my mother and father is a great consolation as I age and approach death. Our forefathers and Mothers have gone before us with all the faith and trust God blesses us with. Why would I fear death?

If we could understand God’s great love for us, we would indeed have no fear, even of death. If we knew the height and depth, the breadth and width of God’s love, fear would disappear. We would have God in us; in our hearts where God longs to be. And with the life of God in us, we would know that death is not the end. God does not die.

At his installation as Archbishop in Regina October 14, 2016, Most Reverend Donald Bolen reflected on Ephesians 3:17-19 which describes Paul’s prayer that through the Spirit we would come to know the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of God’s love.

Bolen went on to explain that in Saskatchewan we have a chance to experience the expanse of God’s creation. When we see the distant horizon surrounding us we have a sense of vastness.

Now picture the sky at night, and see the endlessness of space created by God. We are a mere blue dot in this creation, a dot we have seen from space with our cameras. Bolen went on to speak about our place in the thousands of years of salvation history.

We carry God’s love in us. We are challenged to present the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of God’s love to the world. If we can do this then the fear of death will disappear.

The Resurrection of Christ has defeated death. It is our resurrection as well, and St Paul points out that death has lost its sting: “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

As people of faith we can be optimistic. Legend has it that Beethoven declared, “I shall hear in heaven!” (Internet source)

In his dying breath, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers looked past his family and said: “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow."

(575 words)