we fear death because …

November 5, 2011

in Hospice & Palliative Medicine,Spirituality

… ” … we feel that love requires and asks for eternity — and it is impossible to accept that love is destroyed by death in a single moment.”

But we ask ourselves: Why do we experience fear in the face of death? Why has humanity, to a large extent, never resigned itself to believing that beyond death there is only nothingness?  I would say that there are a variety of reasons: We fear death because we fear emptiness; we fear departing for something unfamiliar to us, for something unknown to us. And then, there is in us a sense of refusal, for we cannot accept that all the beauty and greatness realized during a lifetime is suddenly blotted out, that it is cast into the abyss of nothingness. Above all, we feel that love requires and asks for eternity — and it is impossible to accept that love is destroyed by death in a single moment.

Again, we fear death because — when we find ourselves approaching the end of life — we perceive that there will be a judgment of our actions, of how we led our lives, especially of those shadowy points that we often skillfully know how to remove — or attempt to remove — from our consciences. I would say that the question of judgment is what often underlies the care men of all times have for the departed, and the attention a man gives to persons who were significant to him and who are no longer beside him on the journey of earthly life. In a certain sense, the acts of affection and love that surround the departed loved one are a way of protecting him — in the belief that these acts are not without effect on judgment. We can see this in the majority of cultures, which make up human history.

Today the world has become, at least apparently, much more rational — or better, there is a widespread tendency to think that every reality has to be confronted with the criteria of experimental science, and that we must respond even to the great question of death not so much with faith, but by departing from experiential, empirical knowledge. We do not sufficiently realize, however, that this way ends in falling into forms of spiritism in the attempt to have some contact with the world beyond death, imagining as it were that there exists a reality that in the end is a copy of the present one.

Dear friends … only he who is able to recognize a great hope in death is able also to live a life that springs from hope. If we reduce man exclusively to his horizontal dimension, to what can be perceived empirically, life itself loses its profound meaning. Man needs eternity — and every other hope, for him, is all too brief, is all too limited. Man is explainable only if there is a Love that overcomes all isolation — even that of death — in a totality that transcends even space and time. Man is explainable — he finds his deepest meaning — only if God is. And we know that God has gone forth from the distance and has made Himself close; He has entered into our lives and He tells us: “I am the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). [BXVI 11/2/11 General Audience]

read all of Benedict XVI’s remarks

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