Jesus said, "Before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Death, when it comes, is bound to be a new experience. We only die once, and no one can do it for us. “Don’t worry in advance about what to answer,” Jesus said. When a world is ending, or when your own world is ending, how could you know in advance what to say? Death is unthinkable. What is thought-over is second-hand. Death will be new.
Let’s see what the wise Francis Bacon (1561-1626) had to say about death. “Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.” Then he quotes a Latin author to the effect that the trappings of death are more frightening than death itself. “Groans, and convulsions, and a discoloured face, and friends with weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible.” But death itself is natural. The sweetest canticle, he said, is the Nunc dimittis: the prayer of ancient Simeon when he held the infant Jesus in his arms.
This canticle is part of the Church’s Night Prayer. It is full of peace and confidence; there’s not a dark thought in it.
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