Archbishop William Goh’s thoughts on this subject throws some interesting insights on how we should search ourselves in the way we lead our lives and therein lies the answer
No one is happy about dying, because no one wants to die. Most people try to fight it. Others attempt to defy it. This is a fact. I am sure we have come across many cases of terminally ill patients and their relatives who just could not accept the reality of death. But no matter what we do, we know that life is fragile. It is subjected to illness and must succumb to death, the inevitable limit.
Can we still believe in life in the face of death? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” The plan of God, He did not include death. In fact, God is unhappy that humankind must die. Death is not God’s doing. Rather, He created all things good. God wants us to live.
How, then, do we live in such a way that we will never die? And even when death really comes, are we able to embrace it with open arms, without fear? We can if we really understand the meaning of death. Unless we know what death is, how can we know how to live?
But what is to be feared is actually not biological death but a living death. The fact is that physical health alone cannot bring us happiness. Indeed, why ask for a long life at all if our present life is full of emptiness and misery? Death is the loss of spiritual life, a life that is lived in the spirit – a spirited life – a dynamic life – life in the fullest sense of the term.
The tragedy is that many of us are contented with this kind of lifeless life – existing and kicking but, really, we have died.
But that is what even us Catholics seem to want. Take the Sacrament of the Sick for example. People would rather turn to prayer groups and even mediums for help in time of serious sickness than to avail themselves of the Sacrament. Why? Because the Sacrament of the Sick does not seem to offer spectacular cures.
In this Sacrament, the Church is not concerned with merely restoring the physical health of the person. Indeed, what good is it if the person who has been living a wicked and sinful life is restored to health, only to continue that kind of life?
No, in the Sacrament of the Sick, the Church attacks the root cause of all illnesses. It prays for healing not just on the physical dimension but also on the emotional, psychological and most of all, the spiritual level.
A person cannot live when he lives only for himself. The paradox of life is that life is ours only when it is given away. It is in sharing our life with others that we truly live. The rich, in the sense of this world, can have real riches only when the poor gives them the joy of giving and sharing.
This is the way Jesus lived. For this reason, St Paul urges us to follow the example of Jesus. Christ became poor for our sake so that we might become rich. Christ was as rich as God but became poor in the incarnation and redemption.
But where can we find the strength to die to ourselves? That strength can only come from our own experience of the love of God in our lives. The good things that happen to us and the blessings that we receive are signs of God’s fidelity to us.
The healing miracles in the Gospel and in our lives are meant to be just that: to remind us that God loves us. That is why it would be naive to think that so long as we have faith and pray, God will always heal us.
Archbishop Goh speaks to neophytes at the Church of the Holy Trinity on June 23.
We can see this so often in our lives. Some who have been healed by God suddenly become His witnesses. They are now able to go beyond their hatred to forgiveness, beyond their lack of concern to compassion and caring, beyond their dishonesty and deceit to openness and truth.
And then when biological death comes, we will no longer be frightened. A man who has lived fully in this life will not cling on to this life anymore. In fact, if many of us are so frightened of death, it is simply because we have never lived.
If we have lived a full life here on earth, we will not cling to life here because we would be too happy to go, to seek a higher form of life in the life hereafter – with God and Jesus forever – the resurrected life. We will be too willing to move on instead of clinging to this life.
I think the worst thing that can happen to us is to come to the end of our lives and realise that we have never lived. The saddest tragedy for many of us is that we all know how to make a living, but we do not know how to live!
(Note: The full version of Archbishop’s Daily Reflection was first published on 01 July 2018, Sunday, 13th Week, Ordinary Time)