Gay Byrne recently introduced a series of programmes on the National TV Channel called ‘The Meaning of Life’. One of them was recorded here in the Deanery. Towards the end of each interview with a well-known person, he asked the question “What do you think happens when you die?” He followed his up with supplementary questions such as: “Do you expect to be re-united with loved ones and “What would you say to God as you enter the pearly gates?” Answers varied according to the beliefs of the interviewee, ranging from atheist to agnostic, to Christian.
The programmes encouraged each one of us to answer the same questions for ourselves, because in a sense the meaning of life is very much influenced by our views on death.
Personally I get great comfort from an analogy I read many years ago. Leslie Weatherhead in a little book called: ‘Life begins at Death’, suggest that when we existed in the womb, we had no concept of the life that awaited us after birth. Yes on entering this new life, we were again surrounded by love and often to a whole range of new experiences. Then he finishes the analogy further confirming life in the here and now and the resurrected life promised to all believers. My successor in the Parish where I last served, more recently gave a more picturesque illustration of the concept in a piece she downloaded from the internet. It goes like this; “In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other ‘do you believe in life after delivery?’ The other replied; ‘Why, of course, there has to be something after delivery! Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what will be later.’ ‘Nonsense’ said the first, ‘there is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?’ The second said ‘I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat with our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses which we can’t understand now.’
The first replied: ‘That is absurd; walking is impossible. And eating with our own mouths, ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.’ The second insisted: ‘Well I think there is something and maybe it is not like it is here.’ The first replied:’ Nonsense, and if there is life why has nobody come back from there. Delivery is the end of life and in the after-delivery we will meet mother and she will take care of us.’ The first replied: ‘Mother, that’s laughable. If mother exists then where is she now?’ The second said ‘She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of her. It is in her that we live, without her this world would not and could not exist.’ To which the second replied: ‘Sometimes when you are quiet and you really listen you can perceive her presence and you can hear her loving voice call down from above.’
A modern fable, perhaps, but one that contains a great deal of Christian theology about the Resurrection which we celebrate today, Easter Sunday, and every Sunday, as we remember Him who on the third day rose from the dead. Saint Paul reminds us (1Cor 15:19) “If for this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
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