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As we grow older we have more and more people to remember, people who have died before us. It is very important to remember those who have loved us and those we have loved. Remembering them means letting their spirits inspire us in our daily lives. They can become part of our spiritual communities and gently help us as we make decisions on our journeys. Parents, spouses, children, and friends can become true spiritual companions after they have died. Sometimes they can become even more intimate to us after death than when they were with us in life.
Remembering the dead is choosing their ongoing companionship.
Special reflection from the Institute for Contemplative Living in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his speech “I Have A Dream” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago, this Wednesday, August 28th.
“It is said that at the time of Dr. King’s assassination, there were plans in place for Dr. King to meet with Thomas Merton at The Abbey of Gethsemani. In his work A Hidden Wholeness, Albert J. Raboteau reminisces on the conversation that never happened between these two men. Surely they had more in common than the year of their death in 1968. They had two very different lifestyles, one a Trappist monk committed to a life of simplicity and solitude, and the other a Civil Rights activist, yet the message they spoke was the same truth. Thomas Merton made the distinction between our true inner self and our false external self. Shedding light on the fact that we are absorbed in our false self, and need to become aware, through a contemplative lifestyle, of our inner self. In this awareness we begin to realize that the differences we see between us are false, because we are one. At the core of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream,” speech, we hear this same message. Not only are we already one, but we are equal.”
When we lose a dear friend, someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyse us emotionally for a long time. People we love become part of us. Our thinking, feeling and acting are codetermined by them: Our fathers, our mothers, our husbands, our wives, our lovers, our children, our friends … they are all living in our hearts. When they die a part of us has to die too. That is what grief is about: It is that slow and painful departure of someone who has become an intimate part of us. When Christmas, the new year, a birthday or anniversary comes, we feel deeply the absence of our beloved companion. We sometimes have to live at least a whole year before our hearts have fully said good-bye and the pain of our grief recedes. But as we let go of them they become part of our “members” and as we “re-member” them, they become our guides on our spiritual journey.
To speak about Jesus and his divine work of salvation shouldn’t be a burden or a heavy obligation. When we go to people feeling that unless they accept our way of knowing Jesus, they are lost and we are failures, it is hardly possible to be true witnesses.
It is a great joy when people recognise through our witness that Jesus is the divine redeemer who opened for them the way to God. It is a true cause for gratitude and celebration. But we should also be able to live joyful and grateful lives when our witness with deeds and words does not lead people to accept Jesus in the way we do.
The great mystery of the incarnation is that God became human in Jesus so that all human flesh could be clothed with divine life. Our lives are fragile and destined to death. But since God, through Jesus, shared in our fragile and mortal lives, death no longer has the final word. Life has become victorious. Paul writes: “And after this perishable nature has put on imperishability and this mortal nature has put on immortality, then will the words of scripture come true: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Jesus has taken away the fatality of our existence and given our lives eternal value.
The death and resurrection of Jesus are God’s way to open for all people the door to eternal life. Jesus said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). Indeed, all people, from all times and places, are lifted up with Jesus on the cross and into the new life of the resurrection. Thus, Jesus’ death is a death for all humanity, and Jesus’ resurrection is a resurrection for all humanity.
Not one person from the past, present, or future is excluded from the great passage of Jesus from slavery to freedom, from the land of captivity to the promised land, from death to eternal life.
“Not one person from the past, present, or future is excluded from the great passage of Jesus from slavery to freedom, from the land of captivity to the promised land, from death to eternal life.
Thank you, Jesus. “It is over.”