Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 11, 2010
This is not death, immortal Margaret,
But early passing to another day,
Nor pain nor sorrow doth in thee beget
This pilgrimage along an unknown way,
But only pity for the last farewell;
Now taking leave of earth, O spirit pure,
With us thy thoughts compassionately dwell,
But thou thyself art happy and secure.
Torquato Tasso, Italian poet, born on
this date, 1544, at Sorrento
Well. I love finding obscure 16th century Italian poets – and MAD ones at that! Even better. The poor man spent time wandering around the country, and spent time in insane asylums, ending up on San Onofrio in Rome . And - isn’t it always the way: on the eve of his “coronation” (this may be the translation of an Italian who doesn’t know English idiom very well) as Laureate by Pope Clement VIII. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi!
The Afterlife is a fascinating topic, isn’t it?! I can relate to Tasso; he obviously thinks that the Afterlife holds out hope for all of us of a “happy and secure” future. Now, as I have said I believe before, I personally think that we humans invented the idea of “Heaven” (laying aside for the moment the silly concept of Hell) in order to calm ourselves with the idea of a secure “future” in the hands of a Loving God – so that we could really make everything of this Life on Earth in Time and Space as possible. Jesus is reported to have said that he came to free us
Now: I have talked a lot about this in the over 40 years that I have been a priest and Christian teacher and “preacher”. And the bottom line is: does it really matter if there IS a “Heaven” in a linear sense? I think not.
No one really knows what lies beyond this mortal life (though they may think so). Every culture and society has “invented” a destination, and “furnished” it as they saw what would be a comfortable and pleasant destiny. Frankly, I think that is “how God works” – and as far as I can tell, “God” is only concerned with how to live our present lives to the utmost, with gusto and enthusiasm and excitement and mad curiosity and wonder and awe. What we human beings need is the Freedom to live this present Life to the full, without Fear or Anxiety, free to take all the risks that this Life demands. Jesus is reported to have said that He came to free us from the " power of sin and death”. In order to live Life to the full.
It does not matter how long we live. The Gospel says basically that how long we live is irrelevant to a Good Life, a joyous Life.
Tasso reminds us: when we can put our lives into the “hands” of a “God” who dispels all fears of the Unknown, we can be reckless in giving our all to the thrill of this Life we have.