Thought for the weekend: Life, death, suffering... and the hope of the Resurrection
The grief of a parent at the loss of a child is a unique anguish. Those of us who minister to the bereaved often feel helpless before such raw pain.
The Scriptures many Christians will hear this Sunday contain accounts of two such bereavements - the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:17-24) and the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) - both of who lose sons. In both cases, physical life is restored by Divine intervention.
However, it is very rare for God to restore physical life. In the earthly ministry of Jesus, He worked the miracle of raising the dead only three times. The miracle of restoration of physical life is a dramatic sign revealing God as the Sovereign Author of human life. It also directs our attention to a greater reality - the promise of a life that cannot be terminated by bodily death.
Death is an inescapable human reality and certainty.
The three people raised by Jesus in the Gospels would not ultimately escape physical death for it would visit them again in the future. Christian faith invites us to face the inevitability of bodily death with confident hope.
The extraordinary pain of bereavement is temporary and the fearful experience of dying also will pass. In the Old Testament, we see the beginnings of human hope that we will survive death. The Psalmist expresses it beautifully: "Lord, you brought my soul up from Sheol; you let me live, from going down to the pit" (Psalm 30:4).
This hope is realised in Jesus who assures us: "There are many rooms in my Father's House… I am going to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1-6). St Paul is the great preacher of this hope to all the nations. His message is God's direct revelation to every human being (Galatians 1:11).
The core of Gospel, preached by Paul and proclaimed in the Church today, is this: "If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
"But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead" (I Cor 15:19-20).
Our faith is in "love strong as death" (Songs 8:8). The momentary fear of death will be chased away by the great dawning radiance for "I shall see your face and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord" (Psalm 17:15).