Some summers ago, I was offshore in about fifty inches of warm ocean water about twenty five yards from the shoreline when I found myself moving further and further down the coastline. I could still see my beach chair and umbrella but as I would try to go ashore, the current would drag me down the coast. I was beginning to panic as I struggled to get closer to the shore.
When these incidents happen in life we tend to reflect upon our life choices and our relationship with our Maker. We also come to a realization of how little control we have at these times. It was quite a battle to fight the strong currents and arrive at a safe place. I was exhausted or as my Grandma Hazel would say, I was spent! I had no more to give, no more energy to draw from. Another twenty minute or so of struggle and it may have led to a different outcome.
At these moments in our lives we tend to realign our priorities because we have felt the fragileness of human life as we catch a glimpse of our mortal death. Wither we are struggling with our health or a close call in our daily activities, our time here on this Earth is temporary. St Anthony the Great said, “If you want to be prepared for death, live every day of your life as if it’s the last one!”
In the Wisdom of Solomon, we see: “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.”(Wisdom of Solomon 1.13) And from the prophet Ezekiel: “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD, “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek 18:32) “Sin spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom 5.12); and in sinning, man brought death to their children. In our world, everyone is caught up in the sins of the world. Death is the final victory of the evil one. We are made in God’s image and inspired with the Holy Spirit but we continue to choose sin and its death over a righteous life. (cf. Gen 3, Rom 5.12–21).
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15.52–57) Brothers and sisters there is still hope! By the power of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians can and must transform their deaths into acts of life. They must face the tragedy of death with faith in the Lord, and defeat the “last enemy—death” (1 Cor 15.26) by the power of their faith in a loving Creator. Christ has defeated death and offers you one way to live! Pull yourselves up out of the dark, earthly Rip-Tide that is moving you further away from Divine love!
If you do not love God with all your heart and all your soul, you will not find life before you die and you will not find it after death, and when death overtakes you and you enter into the presence of pure love you will resist it, it will cause you unrest. St. Ambrose puts it like this: “You must not be greatly troubled about many things, but you should care for the main thing — preparing yourself for death.”(St. Ambrose of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina)
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) St. John of Damascus writes:” What earthly sweetness remains unmixed with grief? What glory stands immutable on the earth? All things are but feeble shadows, all things are most deluding dreams, yet one moment only, and death shall supplant them all. But in the light of Thy countenance, O Christ, and in the sweetness of Thy beauty, give rest to him whom Thou hast chosen, for as much as Thou lovest mankind.”
Fr. Gabriel Weller 2/10/2019