About a year ago, when one of my cousins succumbed to cancer unexpectedly very young, the cousins said, ‘we can’t wait for another funeral to bring us together; we need to connect more often and look after each other;’ so we established an extended family WhatsApp group. The number and frequency of messages that were posted on the group inquiring about the well-being of each other and sharing information in the initial weeks almost made me, an extrovert, run for cover. But soon the messages slowed, and now the group has almost become lifeless, and a few have even left the group, the ego and petty issues taking the better of the genuine human self.
It is true that when we are in the presence of death, everything looks different. It is very normal at family funerals; we say to our cousins, “We shouldn’t wait for a funeral to bring us together; we should meet more often!” But then we go our ways, and we don’t meet till the next funeral – or wedding. There’s a solemnity about death that puts everything in a different perspective; many of our ordinary excitements and disappointments look a lot smaller than they used to. And as for our ambitions…!
In the gospel today, Jesus speaks about his death; this follows immediately after Peter identifies Jesus as the son of God. No matter how often Jesus talks of himself and what it means to follow him, the disciples will keep missing it. They wouldn’t get it till his predictions actually happened to him. It always gets lost in petty self-centredness and self-absorption.
Jesus is always patient with them, “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves?” The ego looks out at the world and avoids looking any anything it doesn’t like -such as death. Our true being looks out at the world without judgment and looks up at God and the world with wordless trust and unconditional love. Yesterday we marked ourselves with the ashes, reminding us of our humanness. What would it mean for the rest of our lantern Journey this year?
Giltus Mathias CP is a Passionist priest, he lives at St.Brigid’s Community Marrickville.