Grace: To understand that I will one day come before the Lord, and to realize how my relationship with Him is able to be strengthened and renewed at every moment of my life.
Text for Prayer: Ezekiel 37: 1-3
Reflection: It has been observed that ours is a culture that does not like to face the reality of death. From Botox to infomercials promising that we will live to be 100 to elaborate euphemisms to speak of death, we often try to deny the inevitability of death.
One reason, I think, for all this effort is the fear that thinking about death makes us feel like little kids again. Invariably, we start to think about things that maybe we thought we had outgrown: judgment, and heaven, and hell. Those are things we were told as children to make us behave, or to make us docile, or to make us nice. Or maybe it was something we were told when things were rough, that there was a better world right around the corner if we could just stay steadfast for a little longer. That’s what Marx was getting at when he declared:
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
Christianity—because it requires an acknowledgment of our ultimate destiny—requires thinking about death. Not morbidly, not melancholically, but soberly. But is worrying about death only the pastime of naughty children, religious maniacs and the cruelly mistreated? Many seem to think so.
For the defense, I would call to the witness stand the Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz. Milosz saw that the opium that quiets us is not the belief in a world where the lion will lay down with the lamb. Rather, the opium that quiets us is a belief that this world is all there is. “A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.”
Who is in living the fantasy world: the Christian who believes that one day he will be asked to give an account for all the ways he has mistreated others, or the non-believer who believes that he will never be asked to give an account for those scarlet sins?
I think many Christians are like myself in that I temporarily persuade myself that I will not be called to account for all my sins: my lust, my gluttony, my greed, my sloth, my anger, my envy and my pride. That Day of Reckoning stands not as something to paralyze me with fear, but instead to call me to seek out the salvation being offered at every moment. But I can only be open to receive this balm if I am aware of my wounds. Reminding myself of the day of death, then, is a call to continual repentance, forgiveness and renewal.
Questions: After your death, when you come before the Lord, what do you want to say to Him? What do you want Him to say to you? What do the words you speak ,and the words you hear, mean for my life today?