This morning I replied to a Tweet that said the important question is whether a person is “alive” before death.
I suggested that it might be more fruitful to talk about being “awake” before death because to imply that someone isn’t alive – i.e. dead – seems a bit judgmental and final.
“Awake” and “asleep” are softer terms than “alive” and “dead.” And rarely do strong proclamations or insinuations do any good in helping ourselves and others.
So afterward, I walk to my local parish. And funnily enough the theme (and wording) for today’s Mass was about the soul not dying!
It made me think…
What did Jesus really say? The Bible has so many additions, glosses, translations, contexts, versions, and deletions that sometimes we can’t be sure. Even scholars and linguists quibble over the precise meaning of biblical terms (probably partly why I never bothered to learn Hebrew and Greek).
After a short while I came to the tentative conclusion that we’re all different and have unique roles to play in the grand scheme of things. So even someone who seems spiritually “dead” could be doing something vital. And even someone who seems spiritually “alive” could be out to lunch on other important issues.
Instead of a “this or that” approach, I think it’s more realistic to view people as complex, evolving creations. This involves a multi-dimensional or, if you like, a multi-factorial model of consciousness instead of a binary one.
With a multi-model we would be less inclined to judge and more open to finding out the inherent strengths in others. And more importantly, we might be better disposed to love, even if the “dead” or “sleepers” irritate or harm us.
Now let me be clear. I’m not talking about being a doormat. Nor am I suggesting we don’t defend ourselves or speak out against perceived injustices. I’m just talking about making practical instead of ultimate judgments.
For sure, I steer clear of people if I have reason to believe they’re borderline and possibly violent. You get people like that in big city churches. But I don’t hate them. And I don’t think they’re hell bound or simply going to disappear at death.
Loving people who have insulted or hurt us is not always easy. It might take a while to work through our own resentment. But I find that choosing to love usually works best for everyone, provided it’s done with discernment.
Discernment is a Catholic term with two related meanings. On the one hand it means finding out God’s will for us. On the other hand, discernment is learning to recognize the good and evil influences acting on our souls. Like anything, sincere seekers tend to get better at this over time.
So what will you choose?
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