Changing the climate of death
Flags seem to fly at half staff more often than ever in my city, marking the passing of revered persons. They remind me that every day multimillions are mourning the loss of someone. Death is a constant in public conversation, and not only in regard to people. We hear of the death of forests, reefs, entire species; even the death of privacy, traditional mores and institutions, including church.
So much focus on death creates an oppressive mental climate that urgently needs changing. A line from a hymn points a way:
O come and find, the Spirit saith,
The Truth that maketh all men free.
The world is sad with dreams of death.
Lo, I am Life, come unto Me.
(Elizabeth C. Adams, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 188, © CSBD)
“Come unto me” is a repeated plea in the Bible. Come to the truth that God is the one Life, expressing and embracing all life. Come to the Christ, the way of spiritual living and loving that Jesus proved is deathless. His resurrection and ascension showed that life is independent of matter, and that we are destined to follow him in demonstrating this. He said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
Like us, Jesus’ own disciples were slow to accept that his teaching could actually overrule the apparent inevitability of death now. How he longed for them to get this! That longing showed particularly when he went to raise his friend Lazarus, who had died several days earlier (see John 11:1–44). After Jesus spoke with Lazarus’ grieving sisters, he wept. Many have speculated why. We know from the account that Jesus loved this family, yet it’s hard to believe that he wept from grief or pity when he knew Lazarus was about to rise from death.
It feels more in keeping with Jesus’ love for the whole world that he would have cried because even his closest followers didn’t understand what his promise of eternal life meant and what’s required to fulfill it beginning now. In fact, he did teach that there’s a death that has to happen. The belief that life is in matter has to die because it’s not real life, but like a dream that distorts and then vanishes. By losing that counterfeit sense of life, we find the life God gives, without pain or sadness and forever good.
Jesus also might have wept because people failed to grasp another key point of his teaching. Three times the Bible records the mourners saying that if Jesus had been there earlier, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Yet he had emphasized again and again that it wasn’t his personal power and presence that healed, but Truth itself. Perhaps Jesus foresaw that the tragic mistake of depending on personality instead of the God-principle for salvation would hide the real power to heal for centuries after he left.
Still, the great Teacher didn’t cry for long that day. When Lazarus emerged from the tomb at his command, Jesus must have felt the joy he said couldn’t be taken from us—the joy that the Comforter, the truth that God preserves all life eternally, would come again to human understanding and be established on earth as in heaven. And it did continue to come in gradual advances of spiritual consciousness through the ages, until it burst through the death-trap atmosphere of materialism in Mary Baker Eddy’s discovery of the spiritual Science of life.
While much of this Science remains to be understood and proved, the demonstrations over life-threatening conditions that have come through its practice mark a stupendous change in the mental climate. A Christian Scientist from the Republic of Congo related several years ago how her family had to hide during a violent period in their country’s civil war. When a group of armed men discovered and surrounded them, she turned to God and became conscious of the allness of divine Love. They were not harmed. Several recent testimonies in this magazine have told how medical diagnoses of incurability have been reversed and healed in Christian Science.
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension showed that life is independent of matter, and that we are destined to follow him in demonstrating this.
Once people know there’s an all-loving, ever-available power to help them, they won’t stop at anything to find it. And that seismic shift in consciousness is happening, causing unprecedented numbers to rebel against the corruption, selfishness, and fear, which pollute and kill, and to demand the purity and love that constitute real life.
When death bears down, it’s possible for us, because we are truly God’s offspring, to see through the illusion that life ends. It’s possible and even natural to feel joy that every identity continues as an individual, vital expression of God, and that “each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 66).
Spiritual thinkers establish an atmosphere of expected good. They radiate a confidence that an all-good Mind governs the universe, motivating and inspiring intelligent action. Their unselfish living and loving purifies the mental climate that determines outward conditions. This collective action constitutes an ever-renewing church that rouses the world from the dream of death to the reality of Life’s unending goodness.