Lately I have been reflecting on life and death quite regularly. I’m sure that is why, when I first read today’s readings, the second reading seemed to stick out to me particularly. For the past few months good friends have lost a parent or found out they may soon lose one, cancer has resurfaced, babies have been born, babies have been lost. In the midst of all of this I have begun to recognize my own decline in physical ability due to the ALS I live with. Reading St. Paul as he says, “life is Christ, and death is gain,” is a reminder for me that this life in all its beauty and tragedy is not meant to be forever. There is a forever, though, and I definitely want to live that forever.
Christ will be Magnified
It seems to me that St. Paul’s point isn’t just to die so he can get to heaven, though. He is saying something about the process of living and dying in this life. He talks about the things he could still do along with his longing for heaven, yet he unifies all of it with this phrase, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.”
In the past, reading this letter of St. Paul has provoked a lot of admiration for his seemingly easy detachment from this life. My perspective has changed in the past few years. For me, knowing that death is near has definitely given me a sense of freedom and a deep joy. There is also a type of mourning, though, that happens with letting go. Reading St. Paul’s letters again, I can definitely pick up on his moments of letting go. He says goodbye to his friends with real affection.
Letting go also has an aspect of offering. It isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be. There is a deep affection and friendship between Paul and Christ. Paul isn’t letting go of this life for nothing, he lets go to hold on to Christ, and he leaves those he loves with Christ. His offering goes both ways. He offers his friends friendship with Christ, and he offers Christ everything: his friends, his suffering, his joy, his life, his death. Why? He knows that Christ can transform his offering into grace-grace for himself and for others.
This is my invitation to myself and each of you: whatever it is, offer it to Christ. Let him transform it into grace. Let’s let our life be Christ!