"Fred Castro has just passed away a few minutes ago." This was the news that greeted me one morning last week. I was surprised. A few days later a friend phoned to let me know the quick succession of the deaths of the brother, first, and then the mother of Father Eric. 'It must be hard for Pale, very hard', I said to myself.

Death is always a mystery. I understood this very vividly one Sunday evening when I stood, stunned, near the body, still warm, of my father who had just died. He had worked so hard to raise us up. He had managed to carve a very successful niche in the musical arena back home. He was always so assertive in his ideas and so giving in his life. And yet now he was dead. What was the point of it all? What is the point of striving so hard to succeed when one day every one has to face the cold massive embankment of death?

In a sense, Christianity is bizarre. It just refuses to accept reality. It insists on putting ecstasy when there is only loss. It states tersely that death is only a horizon, and a horizon is only the limit of our sight.

It even dares to insist that death, this fearful monster that devours everything it finds on its way, has in its own turn been swallowed up in victory.

Jesus Christ who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" has something which no one else has. He has victory in his bosom. Blindness... he approached and gave back sight. Deafness...he approached and gave back hearing. Lameness...he approached and gave back the use of legs. Death....he approached and gave back life. Just like that! Lazarus was dead four days. He went in front of the tomb and cried out, "Lazarus, come out!" And Lazarus did come out. On his own two feet!

This is not wishful thinking. This is reality! "Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" asks Paul!

Jesus Christ is more powerful than death. He conquered it. And this Jesus Christ is still alive. He is the one who took Fred by his hands and led him to heaven where he will enjoy life forever. Jesus Christ was his patient travelling companion in life here on earth. Now he is his joyful travelling companion in heaven!

Death is a teacher. It basically teaches us two things. First, to be smart. In life there are things that pass: family, money, career, house, success... they are great, but they pass. And there are things which remain: love, kindness, forgiveness, reading the Word of God, going to Church, helping others... these remain and will accompany us. Consequently, a wise man will invest in them

As KUAM News reported, Rande Sablan who worked with Fred at EPA, said "Fred was really a spiritual man. He was well connected to that side of his life that spoke to a relationship with his God, with his Church and with his neocatechumenal community. If he needed to go and fulfill a commitment with his Church, he would go and he would put aside work..."

"Where is your furniture?" queried the American tourist of the holy man who had hardly anything in his room. "Where is yours?" asked knowingly the holy man. "I am only a tourist!" answered flustered the guy. "Well, so am I!" concluded the holy man who realized, of course, the transient nature of life on earth.

And lesson number two. Now that Fred is with Jesus, every time we create a contact with Jesus, we will be making contact with him. Our dead are only a prayer away. Every time we make an act of kindness to anyone, since Jesus is in that someone, we will be making an act of kindness to our dead relatives. They are only an act of kindness away. Every time we smile at someone, since that someone is in Jesus, we will be smiling at our dear ones who passed away. They are only a smile away. Yes, that near. Fantastic!

"Do not let your hearts be troubled!", said Jesus. He was right of course. The resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith. It is Christian faith!

When his housekeeper asked Karl Marx, founder of Communism, if he wanted his last words recorded, he retorted angrily, 'Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough." Ludwig van Beethoven, the eccentric German Austrian composer, on his death bed, could only utter, '"Friends applaud, the comedy is over." The 34th President of the US, Dwight D. Eisenhower, calmly asserted when he was dying in 1969, "I've always loved my wife, my children and my grandchildren, and I've always loved my country. I want to go. God, take me." When Saint Joan of Arc, the French military heroine was being burned to the stake, her last words were "Hold the cross high so that I may see it through the flames."

Yes, hold the cross high and death loses its fear.

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.