This reflection took place at a morning Eucharist – a part of a series on the 23rd Psalm by Bishop Elmer Belmonte on 4 December 2019, transcribed by Deacon Andrew Gossage
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” (Psalm 23:4)
Renewing our minds
In my journey from a Roman Catholic background to a more balanced (charismatic, evangelical and liturgical-sacramental) Christian life I have learned that it is very important to renew our mind (Romans 12:1-2). Otherwise, although we have new life through our relationship with Christ, we cannot see that our life is being changed. We need to engage the mind to change the way it thinks and operates.
If we are sheep, we need a shepherd, to lead us to the right way and to discern what is good or evil. David was in the desert, and recognised the dangers for himself and his flock. Bishops and priests watch for dangers to the flock, to make sure the sheep are not harmed by things in the surroundings. In life where sometimes is more like a maze or labyrinth, they watch over us and to seek for one’s spiritual welfare
The desert is can be a picture of this life where there are were lions, leopards, snakes and others. This was where David was most of the time where was prepared to be the shepherd-king of Israel a precursor of Christ. Christians may go though the valley but are assured of God’s protection.
Through the lens of the scriptures
People don’t like to talk about mortality. However, sooner or later reality kicks in. We ignore the subject because it is morbid until it starts knocking on the doorstep. The great thing about following Jesus is He knows the way and He is the way. He faced the cross and came out victorious.
Europe has one of the lowest Christian populations. People questioned why God allowed the two World Wars in which many people were killed. God did not invent death or make bombs – man did. We create wars through pride, jealousy, and the quest for power – it’s not God’s fault.
The stages of grieving
The worst thing about death is separation, especially the death of loved ones, because we are all seeking for love. However, that separation is temporary.
There are four stages of grieving:
1) Denial: we say this cannot be happening. This is the natural way to cope.
2) Anger – often against the Church, the priest or God. Anger can control us, and as a result we often do foolish things. If someone does something bad to you, you don’t need to deal with the person, but with your anger. The problem is when we pass it on to others. You may have an angel and a demon fighting inside you, but which one will you feed more? Jesus forgave those who nailed Him to the cross. We have a long way to go in following Him.
3) Internalising anger leads to depression.
4) Acceptance and looking for meaning, so that we can move on with our life.
It does not make sense with no understanding of the Cross
Life, reality, existence and death are very complex matters. This is why there are many religions trying to make sense of life. One common question some people ask, is If God is good, why does He allow people to suffer? In our culture we don’t want to deal with this, and we have many superstitions.
From the writings of the church fathers, mortality is a penalty and constant reminder for the sin of Adam and Eve. But death died through Jesus Christ. From the writings of C.S. Lewis, death is both an enemy and an ally. To face one’s mortality is not to cease to exist. St. Paul said that death is like removing an old worn out clothing only to be replaced with a better one.
There is a victorious way of facing death.