Are you following this prescription for life? Are you waking up every morning, excited as if the mind and body are shouting, “Yes! It’s a new day to live again”?
Most of us have a fear of death, and rightfully so. We don’t want to die. There’s a finality to it that rubs us the wrong way. So we spend vast amounts of money on trying to stave off death or push it away for as long as possible. We also waste a lot of time worrying about death, so much so that we forget how to live. And not just be alive. But to be fully alive, fully present, and fully aware of all that is in and around us.
Let’s face it, death is a natural part of the human cycle. It doesn’t take good science to verify this, just time. But what’s important about this ancient Mexican tradition is their point of view that death is not viewed simply as a day of sadness but one of celebration. In fact, according to Coco, during Dia de los Muertos it is believed that their loved ones awake from their “after life” and celebrate with them here, in the now. They are not visible like ghosts who can be seen or heard, but as part of the Spirit - present in the the celebration of life itself.
But what if they could be seen? What if we could hear what they had to say? What might the dead have to tell us about life?
There’s a weird story in Luke’s gospel (16:19-31) about a rich man dressed in the finest purple linen clothes and a poor beggar named Lazarus, who was covered in nothing more than sores. The rich man constantly ignored the beggar’s pleas to be fed. One day both men die. Lazarus is carried by angels to be by Abraham’s side (I would call this heaven). The rich man (who has no name) also dies and winds up being tortured in Hades (what others have gotten the concept of hell).
In their respective afterlives, the rich man sees Lazarus in a place of goodness and calls out for a sip of cold water, “for I am anguished in this flame.” Answering for the poor man is Abraham, who reminds the rich guy what he used to do for poor Lazarus while he was alive. Then the rich man pleads to the patriarch, “Then I beg you to send him to my brothers and warn them so they don’t end up here with me.” But Abraham, citing Moses and the Prophets, responds by saying, “If they do not hear what has already been said, they won’t be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”
It’s safe to say Jesus tells this story to warn his followers that what they do matters. How they honor God’s call to love others will matter both now, and later. Jesus knows he will die (after all, it’s inevitable) but I wonder if he knew he would be resurrected. This weird little story seems to suggest he didn’t really know or understand, perhaps because his focus was on living now and not dying later.
Are you following this prescription for life? Are you waking up every morning, excited as if the mind and body are shouting, “Yes! It’s a new day to live again”? Or will we just sit there like that old car gathering the dust of day to day existing?
When asked what surprised him the most about humanity, the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying: “Man... Because man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
To quote one of my favorite punk rock bands, Flipper, “Life is the only thing worth living for!” So what do you say? Let’s live it. Who knows? One day our picture will line the ofrenda next to a honey glazed donut and a super hoppy double IPA showered in Aztec marigolds. And they will say, “Damn, they knew how to live life.”
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”