Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday in Lent IV - Lucy Gardner

Tutor in Christian Doctrine, Lucy Gardner, gave this homily at this morning's Mass.

Most people know that Christian teaching has something to say about life. Fewer realise that the Christian life is also about death. It is about dying to our idols, and about allowing them to die to us. It is also about putting death into perspective.

Viewed from the perspective of Easter, death has been destroyed. Its finality has been rent open and it can no longer define us or hold us to ransom. But we still have to face it.

Viewed from the perspective of Easter, death is something that happens in the middle of life, and not just at the end. At baptism, we die to sin and rise to new life.

Viewed from the perspective of Easter, death is also an everyday experience. Each morning we are called to die with Christ in order to share in his victory and enjoy his gift of life, to the full and for ever. Each evening we pray with Simeon that we might be permitted to depart in peace.

If you think about it, from the moment we are born we are dying. But for Christians this is not a tragedy, because eternal life can begin in the here and now precisely because dying can also happen in the here and now. And personal holiness has something to do with learning to live with this, learning to live with our own dying.

Preparing someone else for their death is, I think, one of the greatest acts of human kindness. Preparing others for death, not only in their last days and hours, but throughout their lives, is one of the greatest services the Church has to offer, and being part of that is one of the greatest privileges of her ministry.

It is also a very necessary service in a culture which distorts death, on the one hand by ignoring it, shutting it away and clinicalising it, and on the other by glamourising it in treacled drama or bloody violence on our screens.

In order to perform this service, however, we need to be prepared for our own deaths. We need to be practised in dying with Christ to our distorted, idolatrous selves. We need to be practised in viewing everything through the death and resurrection of Christ, from the perspective of Easter.

As we wait for Easter, the Spirit prepares us to die and rise with Christ. The Spirit trains us in our own dying, trains us in viewing everything from the perspective of Easter, trains us in personal holiness. In so doing, the Spirit also trains us to prepare others for their deaths.