Our life is a short opportunity to say yes to God’s love. Our death is a full coming home to that love. Do we desire to come home? It seems that most of our efforts are aimed at delaying this homecoming as long as possible.
Writing to the Christians at Philippi, the apostle Paul shows a radically different attitude. He says: “I want to be gone and be with Christ, and this is by far the stronger desire—and yet for your sake to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need.” Paul’s deepest desire is to be completely united with God through Christ and that desire makes him look at death as a “positive gain.” His other desire, however, is to stay alive in the body and fulfill his mission. That will offer him an opportunity for fruitful work.
We are challenged once again to look at our lives from above. When, indeed, Jesus came to offer us full communion with God, by making us partakers of his death and resurrection, what else can we desire but to leave our mortal bodies and so reach the final goal of our existence? The only reason for staying in this valley of tears can be to continue the mission of Jesus who has sent us into the world as his Father sent him into the world. Looking from above, life is a short, often painful mission, full of occasions to do fruitful work for God’s kingdom, and death is the open door that leads into the hall of celebration where the king himself will serve us.
It all seems such an upside-down way of being! But it’s the way of Jesus and the way for us to follow. There is nothing morbid about it. To the contrary, it’s a joyful vision of life and death.