20 July 2018
When it comes to death and eternal life, what we say and believe about it is largely a matter of faith. But this isn’t just wishful thinking or human imagination gone wild. Our Tradition and the Scriptures lead us to the door of understanding death. And even science and reason helps with this as well. But ultimately our peace about death rests in the person of God alone.
Now, when we hear numbers in the Old Testament, there’s usually a meaning behind them. And we see this in the reading from Isaiah. The “fifteen” years added to Hezekiah’s life is a symbolic number: it points to the reality of rest. In other words, his life in death will be filled with rest from his struggles. And five times we hear God say, “I” . . . I have heard your prayer, I will heal you, I will add, I will rescue you, I will be a shield. “Five” is a symbol pointing to the reality of divine grace and favor.
In other words, grace and goodness come from God alone. That’s what the symbolism of numbers pointed to for Hezekiah. Surrounded by those symbols which reveal God’s embrace of him, how could Hezekiah feel anything but comfort as he entered death and fuller life with God?
And we Catholics have symbols, too: the symbols of the crucifix and the altar, both of which point to the reality that Christ is here with us on earth, walking with us. And we have the greatest sign here as well, God himself present in the Eucharist. Surrounded by these signs of God’s presence and companionship, we can face death—and even the ordinariness of everyday life—with assurance and peace.
We can, and should, use science and human reason to help with our quality of living. But ultimately our peace about death and life rests in the person of God alone, God who surrounds us with signs and symbols of his presence, God who is our hope and happiness.