Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Immortality
All religious leaders encourage their followers to face the mystery of death; to deal with the conundrum -"if I have been born to die, why be born at all"? Today's readings touch on this most fundamental religious question.

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23: The author of this Wisdom Book sets out to remind his readers that life is a vanity of vanities unless there is some purpose and meaning which transcends death. What, exactly, that purpose is the author is unsure, and it is only later that religious thinking embraces, fully, the concept of immortality.

Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11: From the moment of our baptism, St. Paul writes, our ultimate destiny is union with Christ, so that we may be revealed‚ in glory with him.

Luke 12: 13-21: When asked to intervene in a matter of inheritance, Christ refuses. He does not assert that the acquisition of material possessions is wrong; He does, however, make the point that ultimate security cannot be found in them.

Point 1: All forms of life die; but only humans‚  know, from a very early age, that some day they will die. Other forms of life may have a premonition of imminent death - we are told that‚ elephants will leave the herd; swans will sing more lustily as death draws near, and so on. With humans the certainty of death is ever present. The fact is always there to be faced that we have only a finger-tip grip on life. However many years we live, it is for a relatively brief time, and then life is taken away. No amount of self deception can change this fact. The thoughtful person who faces this overwhelming and inevitable fact of death, of necessity, asks -Why do I have to die? Is death the end of everything"?

Point 2: There are many hints and indications that, in the human sphere, death is not the end of everything. Sigmund Freud, although he attached no religious significance to it, argued that the subconscious is convinced of its immortality. Joseph Addison, British playwright and author, gave a lucid expression to this concept of immortality in his play "Cato", Act V, Sc.1 when he wrote -"It must be so, Plato! Thou reasonest well! Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire, this longing after immortality? Or whence this sacred dread and inward horror of falling into naught? Why shrinks the soul back and startles at destruction? 'Tis the divinity that stirs within us; 'tis heaven itself that points out an hereafter and intimates eternity to man! Eternity! thou pleasing, dreadful thought"! Human life alone, consciously and reflectively, seeks immortality. We seeks it in achievement that we may be included in the annals of history; we seek it in heredity.

Point 3: Religious thinking, however, introduces a broader dimension to this longing to live on. "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but, if it dies, it bears much fruit". For the Christian, immortality is the whole point life - to live daily in such a way as to live eternally. Life finds its fulfillment in final union with the Author of Life, the God who created life. In its liturgy for the dead, this thought is vividly expressed where we‚  pray that "the sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality....Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended". As an anonymous Indian mystic expressed it - "Death is not extinguishing the light, but putting out the lamp because the dawn has come". When asked to explain how this transition would take place, St. Paul wrote "[1 Cor 13:12] For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known"

Conclusion: Four centuries before Christ, Plato expressed his belief in immortality in these words -"will you not allow that I have as much spirit of prophecy as the swans? For they, when they perceive that they must die, having sung all their lives, do sing more lustily than ever rejoicing in the thought they they are going to the god they served". These early thoughts by the pagan philosopher were later crystallized by Christ as recorded by St. John.

Scriptural reference: This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day." [John 6:40]