- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

May 6, 2017

Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO [1]

3rd Saturday of Easter Season
Acts 9:31-42; Jn 6:60-69

Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. So goes one of the verses from our Responsorial Psalm this morning. We’ve heard it so many times that we can easily gloss over it. But it is actually quite tender and quite comforting.

I think of the garden spiders that we see sometimes in our cloister walkways. They seem to find their way indoors in the late fall, looking for a place to spend the winter. But before long they’re shriveled up in a corner someplace. Or the earthworms that we see in the main cloister just down from the bulletin boards. They get water-logged when there is a lot of rain and come under the door from the garth. The dried-up bodies of the worms are stepped on and stepped over and ignored until the next pass of the dry mop. Then there are the dead flies that collect on the window sills. These lifeless corpses already beginning to decay — is that what we have to look forward to when I our life runs its course? Is there really no more than this world that we see? For many, many people all over the earth and all through the centuries and millennia, death is far from something precious. Death is rather a tragedy, something to be dreaded, something to be feared, something that can make our lives feel meaningless.

But our Judeo-Christian faith pulls back the curtain on the true reality that awaits us after death. Death is not the last word, it is only the beginning. Christ’s resurrection has made death something to look forward to – the entry way into a much fuller existence. Think of a baby in the womb. That’s the only kind of existence it’s ever known. It likes its little world – it’s warm, comfy, predictable, safe. It’s also very confining, but it doesn’t realize that because it’s never experienced what’s outside the womb. Being pushed out the birth canal can feel tragic and traumatic. But meanwhile, the child’s parents are waiting on the outside rejoicing that the day has finally come. Precious in the eyes of parents is the birth of their little ones. God and his angels and saints, our ancestors and family members and friends, famous people we’ve read about and admired – any of these people who made it to heaven will welcome us with great rejoicing. It will be a day precious in their eyes.

In our First Reading we heard the story of St. Peter raising Tabitha back to life. Jesus brought a few people back to life, and he gave some of his disciples the power to do the same on rare occasions. But I think resuscitation is meant to be only a symbol of resurrection. It would be like putting a baby back in the womb instead of letting it begin its new life with so many possibilities and opportunities and so much wonder. Most people who have gone through a near-death-experience didn’t want to return here. What they got a glimpse of was so much better.

Eternal life is where it’s at, not this life. We can certainly enjoy this life while we’re here, but it would be a tragedy to live for this life only. To live this life in view of the next gives our days on earth so much more meaning. Peter realized that in our Gospel Reading today. When Our Lord touchingly asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter’s heart burst forth with, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” We need that lifeline to eternal life. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Tragically, some people walked away from him – and still do. How blessed we are to still be clinging to the lifeline.

Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. A beautiful little phrase to turn over and over again during a prayer period.