The Art of Dying


One of the most difficult experiences is to communicate to someone that he or she is about to die. Once, I was ministering to a patient who had been diagnose with pulmo-nary fibrosis, and the doctors had just told him that he would have at them most six months to live. In our conversation, he was troubled with the reality of death. He said to me, "You know, people teach you how to walk, how to read, 1 how to drive a car, how to do things, but nobody teaches you how to die."

Death troubles us! This was so even for Jesus himself who knew what kind of death he was about to undergo, death on a Cross: "l am troubled now. Yet what should l say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that 1 came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." (John 12:27-28) As for Jesus, our nearness to death is a moment in which we are invited to take a look at the purpose of our lives. For Jesus, this purpose is very clear, "Father, glorify your name."

This glorification of the name of the Father does not just happen at the moment of death, but all throughout our lives. "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me." John 12: 24-26)

In this sense, the purpose of our lives is to serve Jesus, the Lord. Serving Jesus implies learning to die to oneself when His mission requires it for us to give much fruit. Living. Serving Jesus brings fullness of life. Learning to die on this world and to the things of this world prepares us for eternal life.

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.