This is part of a post in a series by Sister Johanna Caton that we read back in March. Search Agnellus Mirror for People in their thousands or follow this link to read the whole post and access the series. This is apposite for our series on preventing suicide, but also appropriate for today’s date.
To you, my friends, I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more (cf. Lk 12:4).
Jesus’ words here are bold words. I imagined myself there, at the scene, part of that huge crowd of thousands. I am hungry for Jesus’ truth. How would I have reacted to his words? Sure, I would have liked well enough being included among those whom Jesus calls his ‘friends’. But I must confess that I would also have felt a subtle resistance to the rest of that sentence, I think. He says, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but after that can do no more. I don’t think I would have wanted to hear about killing and being killed.
But Jesus, in this passage, is determined to challenge us, and to make his audience face the deepest of mysteries. He is going straight for what we most fear, straight for the most horrific thing we can imagine: our death. The very subject of death touches the rawest of raw nerves. In the face of death, if we are honest about our feelings, our sense of bewilderment, horror, loss, grief, disorientation, fear and even injustice and outrage surfaces – usually overwhelmingly. And this is the subject Jesus raises. Then, with simplicity, and without a hint of melodrama, he says that we have no reason to fear death, or to fear those who, out of malice, may cause our death. Recall: there are thousands listening to this speech. He wants everybody to know.
Why is Jesus talking about death? It now comes home to me that he does this because he alone, as Son of the Living God, is the only human being – ever – with authoritative knowledge of death. His teaching about death, therefore, is an integral part of his mission – it is his mission. It is even the Good News!
We must not be afraid of those who kill the body, even if it is their own body they kill. That lack of fear, or that overcoming of fear, enables ordinary people to intervene, as Samaritans, as trained suicide watch workers, or just good neighbours.
Let us pray for the grace to overcome the fear of death sufficiently to comfort the bereaved, and to notice and get alongside a potential suicide who may cross our path.