ARE YOU AFRAID OF DYING?
"For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:19-20)
I think some people have trouble facing death at the end of their earthly lives because they haven’t learned how to die during their lives. Here are some words from Richard Rohr: “We cannot experience rebirth, being “born again,” without experiencing some real form of death first. Most “born again” churches do not seem to have recognized this. The old self always has to die before the new self can be born, which is the Passover experience we resist. In the language of John’s Gospel (12:24), “The grain of wheat must die or it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”” (from “You Are Going to Die,” May 27, 2016, Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation)
Paul names this dying-in-order-to-live process in the verses from Galatians, above. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” This is a radical concept! And he is describing what happens when we really turn our lives over to God.
To what has Paul died? He has died to calling the shots and being his own master. He has died to ego and all his personas - his false selves. He had died to thinking that he knows more than God. He has died to believing that his keeping of all the commandments of the law will “save” or justify him. He has died to thinking that his will is more important than God’s will. He has died to THE NEED TO BE RIGHT, which is one of the biggest enemies of our staying connected with God and with others.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves of what happens when we fall in love with someone and decide to spend our lives with someone. We suddenly are living no longer for ourselves alone! And if we are going to do this relationship well, we will die to certain things. We will die to the idea that I can do whatever I want without thinking about the impact that it might have on my partner. We will die to the practice of living as if I am the only person on earth. We will die to the practice of not telling anyone else where I am going or when I will be home. Why? Out of people-pleasing? No! Out of love and respect and honor for the other person. Of course, this kind of dying occurs even more frequently if you have children!
Similarly, if I am going to turn my life over to Christ, there will be some dying in that. Rohr is right. We cannot be “born again” without experiencing some form of dying. Allowing Christ (or the Spirit) to take up residence in me - remember Paul’s words: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” - is going to involve me dying to theold False Self... to the ego.
And why would I want to experience this kind of dying? So that - with God’s help - my True Self can emerge, and I can learn how to love!
Rohr says in another place that we probably die many times over during the course of our lifetime. If we are in a loving relationship... if we have made a commitment to live “in Christ”, I am sure that is true. But then again... in our new life we can bear much fruit!
So... are you afraid of dying? Dying is part of life - part of the journey of new life with Christ... in Christ... and through Christ. And the stuff Christ is calling us to die to is the stuff that gets in the way of kingdom life - the stuff that leads to hatred, the exclusion of others, and violence.
Dying, we live. The life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us - eternally! - and gave himself for us. This is the true life! And we get there by doing some dying.
And if we learn how to do this kind of dying now, then going through dying at the end of our earthly lives is going to be a piece of cake.