Culture at the Crossroads
He Suffered Death and Was Buried
Religious faiths of many cultures have regarded death as but a passage, a movement. A distinctive element of Christianity is that it does not treat death as an abstraction, as if to say, "trust me, there's more after you die." Instead, Jesus goes there. He suffers. He dies. He gets buried in a tomb. He shows us that death is nothing to be afraid of.
John Donne understood the import of Jesus' death: it liberates us from the ultimate fear. Those who no longer fear death no longer fear suffering. They can plunge headlong into ridiculous actions, like handing over their lives to serve victims of every form of plague. (Examples here, here, here, here, here, and here. Plenty of others.) They can serve the poor with abandon (here, here, here, here, here, and more). They become absurdly unconcerned with small pleasures—those that our bodies give us.
Victor Frankl, the psychotherapist who survived the Holocaust and wrote one of the most important books of the 20th century, Man's Search for Meaning, observed that in the concentration camps those who gave up hope turned to physical pleasures shortly before they died. For those people for whom death is the ultimate boundary, what else is there besides pleasure? Jesus' death—God's own death—suggests that there is much more.
Tim Muldoon holds a Ph.D. in Catholic systematic theology and is an award-winning author and Catholic theologian of the new evangelization.