Here in the northern hemisphere we have entered the time when the change of seasons brings about the seeming death of nature and the beauty of the creation around us reveals a paradox - the beauty of the leaves is most brilliant in their dying. As the trees and bushes move through their cycle of life they begin to shed their leaves until they bud again in the spring. In that cycle we see the fingerprints of God. We recognize that this rhythm is playing out in our own life. In the cycle of dying and rebirth we witnessed the core of the Christian belief - that in the death and resurrection of Jesus we, too, will die and rise.
The month of November is traditionally a time in which many churches remember those who have died. His experience has changed our perspective on death and has given us hope for a future of eternal life.
In his own death, Jesus experienced all that we do when confronted with the reality of death. He felt the darkness, the threat, the loneliness. He knew the powerlessness and suffering. What is unique and salvific is the response of Jesus in the face of his own death. In his struggle Jesus accepts death. He places his hope in the Father, overcoming death itself. By his submission to God’s will Jesus begins to live fully with God.
The insistence of the Christian community that we have such faith is a constant affirmation of our confidence in the power of the Risen Christ.
The American playwright, Eugene O’Neill, wrote a seldom performed play entitled: Lazarus Laughed. It tells the famous biblical story of the raising of Lazarus in verse form. Lazarus, having been raised from the dead is a figure of controversy in his town. People don’t know what to make of him and some respond violently. Over and over he laughs and as he does he becomes younger and younger. Lazarus speaks few words except to repeat variations on a refrain: “Laugh with me, death is dead, fear is no more, there is only life, there is only laughter.”
I encourage you to take the opportunity to visit the graves of your loved ones this November. Pray for them. Pray for the grace of a happy death. But above all, be confident that the power of Christ overcomes even death itself.