‘Death of Fear’
IT would seem more appropriate to say the fear of death rather than the death of fear. But today, fear is sought as an entertainment commodity. Viewer, readers or players are thrilled by the artistically gruesome representation of death associated with murder, torture, monsters, and possessions in movies, books, and video games. But all these do not help us truly understand and embrace death’s true face.
I personally have nothing against people who enjoy a good scare every now and then. But I observe that as this form of “entertainment” grows, one notices how people become more indifferent and numb to the realities of death and many other real injustices and horrors (i.e. wars, ethnic cleansing, famine, and drugs, etc.) and the prevailing culture of death desecrating the innate dignity of human life and love through abortion, euthanasia, prostitution, slavery, and more.
Today’s cultural panorama no longer realistically portrays death in both its human and supernatural spheres. Everybody knows that the normal cause of death is not by zombie attacks, vampire bites, or disintegrating alien laser beams! Thus, there is a need to instill once again a healthy fear of death in ourselves, so that death will not end infusing fear in us but open us to and prepare us for eternity.
The real fear of death that I speak about is due to its uncertainty and outcome. We are uncertain and, therefore, afraid because we do not know when, where, and how death will come to us. Also, we are not sure about the outcome of our life: are we going to Heaven or to Hell? How can we understand this fear?
The saints give us the answer. They welcomed the reality of death, but more than fearing death itself, they feared what would offend God Himself and the possibility of not going to Heaven. They oriented their life by dying daily in their pride, selfishness, comforts, and other worldly things that could hinder their flight towards God. Thus, saints like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Josemaría welcomed death as their Sister!
The saints nurtured a holy fear and made them vigilant, enterprising, and apostolic. They were vigilant since they knew not when death would come and were always ready to live each day as though it were their last. This vigilance contributed to intensely engaging themselves in converting both material and spiritual realities to prepare themselves for death (i.e. prayer, the Sacraments, corporal works of mercy, etc.).
Finally, although every one dies alone, at their death the saints left an imprint of faith, hope, and love in the souls they had touched: this is the apostolic dimension of their lives. It is not only in dying that the Christian rises to eternal life, but also in dying, he is filled with a joyful hope and peace because what was sown in the seed of his life may also bring many others to Heaven’s bliss.