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Death and Dying


Undertaking a spiritual journey is in essence
knowing that one will not complete it
if one does so, immersed as we are all in chronological time.
Abram left Haran with no regrets;
the anticipated joy of reaching a land of promise
was incentive enough, even as he advanced in years.
His belief in the LORD was one way of chasing his dreams
believing in himself, that against all odds
(and there were many) he could make it happen.
When the LORD first made his promise and Covenant
Abram was immersed in chronological time.
Progress was to be measured; there would be ups and downs.
But provided there were more “ups” than “downs”
all would be well.
It was against this mind-set
that he tried to have a son through Hagar.
It was a water-shed moment, however,
since he suddenly felt himself
snatched out of chronological time
and inserted into sacred time.
Abram now becomes Abraham.
This was the reason why against all logic,
inconsistent with the prospect of fulfilment,
he willingly agreed to sacrifice the son of the promise – Isaac.
In consenting to his death in chronological time
he was immersed into the process of dying.

 

Death is a fact of life at all levels.
“Dying”, on the other hand is a process
which only one on a spiritual journey can experience.
By it we become progressively “unattached” not only from life itself,
but from everything that life has to offer.
Death is no longer the abstraction we fear.

 

The size and extent of Abram’s possessions
are of little consequence against the fact
of his willing to be “uprooted” from where he was.
Job on the other hand has an abundance of wealth.
Abraham is situated in history, in chronological time
Job’s experience is from the outset placed in sacred time.
The manner of their dispossession however, in both cases
reveals that poverty of spirit is at the heart of a spiritual journey.
Abraham is all too human and so expectedly vulnerable.
Job, for his part is a man of great wealth, but upright and blameless.
His experience reminds us that the challenge to poverty of spirit
comes equally to those in abundance as well as it does
to those who suffer deprivation.
For Jesus it is the first of the beatitudes.
What this means is that
the “saint” and the “sinner”
are equally and at all times “beginners”
We often undertake spiritual journeys
while remaining rooted in chronological time.
We then want to measure our progress,
are impatient with our failures,
and often make the journey, an end in itself.
Abraham teaches us to journey in a spirit of dispossession.
He will not in his lifetime see the promise fulfilled.
Yet, he never looks back;
his thoughts are never on the country he has left behind.
Job on the other hand is content
to see all his possessions taken away.
Without murmur or regret he never loses sight of the LORD.

 

 The invitation to journey inward
is always made in Sacred Time.
It is never our own dream that we chase;
nor can we rest complacent
with the consolations we receive from God,
thinking that they are “signs” of our progress along the way.
“Lord, it is good for us to be here”  indicates
that Peter is still possessed by his dream
and fears death as its great dispossessor.
Grieving for what we have lost may only indicate
that we are yet to begin our journey, chasing our own dream
rather than experience the joy of dispossession.
It is not grasping, but allowing ourselves to be grasped instead,
by God who holds us in the palm of his hand
that guarantees we are true pilgrims on the way.

 

Christopher Mendonca 



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