March 25 ~ Fifth Week
Dear old and new friends,
Agnostics and atheists, non-religious or religious, no one yet has escaped dying! This Haystack reflection is for all to ponder as we anticipate the events of Friday, April 3rd, that remembers the death of Jesus. Believers or doubters, we all need to think about that unavoidable event in life and the reality known to every backyard gardener that the beautiful pictures on the seed packets don’t come alive unless they die. Do garden seeds fear their death as we fear ours?
More than a primal survival instinct our fear of dying is evident from our daily speech when we politely say, “Mary passed away today”—instead of “she died”! So common is this darkest fear of the inescapable that in the stone business a salesperson never speaks of tombstones, instead refers to them as “memorial stones or monuments.” Regardless what you want to call it, to each of us someday the “unspeakable” will come so we best wisely prepare for it by thinking about it seriously.
Surprisingly the best preparation for a happy death is to become an expert lover who never tires of more unselfishly loving—more totally and sacrificially loving—regardless if married or not! Single, divorced, widowed or vowed religious, the wandering teacher of Galilee who died crucified on a cross calls everyone to wisely observe his one and only commandment: “Love God and each other.” Every act of love requires death of self; dying to the self’s powerful demands to be always right, first and in control. The need for the self to die is essential according to theologian Ilia Delio, “A self that is full of itself can never receive the love of another nor make a genuine movement towards the other.” Infallible is this ironclad rule of how to love.
The legend that Adam, by sinning against God, ushered death into this world was the way the ancients tried to explain the existence of this dark horrifying fate of all life. Science has shown us that death and life appear together after evolution’s Big Bang as dying stars exploded outward in space all the raw ingredients of life. These star deaths were repeated over and over in the billions of years of evolution as galaxies appeared, and then our daystar, the sun, was born out of the clouds of various gasses and atomic hydrogen. The other planets in our solar system along with our planet Earth were gradually created from cosmic clouds in like fashion until, most amazingly, we humans became living Easters of long dead stars.
Good Friday is the Great Valentine’s Day! Believers and unbelievers need to see the cross with all its suffering, pain and death not as a sacrifice-payment to redeem humanity from the punishment of its sins but rather as a cosmically gigantic act of love. The cross symbolizes the deeply profound cost of authentic loving and the sign of a willingness to go to extreme limits of genuine true affection and faithfulness. Even if it appeared God had abandoned him in his agonizing death, Jesus never once curses, asks why, or abandons God. The cross then is the ultimate sign of a love that knows no end. There is an old Russian expression that says you can tell the depth of belief of a woman or man by the way they make the sign of the cross.