Sometimes death is a welcome relief from suffering. Dare we say it? Sometimes we do. And in church circles there may be some degree of trepidation mouthing that sentiment. We accept life from conception to natural death, do we not? Is such life something to which we cling only when we are doing well?
These are deep philosophical, pastoral, and religious questions posed by Ben Sira, the cited author of this long book of wisdom.
It’s a brief reading::
O death! how bitter the thought of you
for the one at peace amid possessions,
for the person unruffled and always successful,
who still can enjoy life’s pleasures.
O death! how welcome your sentence
to the weak person of failing strength,
tottering and always rebuffed,
with no more sight, with vanished hope.
Fear not death’s decree for you;
it embraces those before you, and those after.
Thus God has ordained for all flesh;
why then should you reject the will of the Most High?
Is it God’s will for us to die a mortal death? Looking back to the Garden, perhaps not. But mortality is the way we are made. Do we–can we accept this as part of a biological reality? Does it give comfort to know others before us have died? That our children, an unimagined generations to come will not escape this fate?
I think this reading is a blunt and forceful reality. Maybe too honest for mourners not in touch with a perspective beyond their immediate grief. But I offer this suggestion because it was suggested to me in my ministry a number of years ago.
What do you think? Would these words fit a funeral you have attended?