As much as I want to resist doing it, it is tough to write a review without addressing the elephant in the room. The coronavirus and the resulting restrictions that are being imposed have affected us all. It has even spilled over into the books I am currently reading. Though many were not written intentionally for this period we are facing, they sure fit nicely into the story line. Such it is with the book I am reviewing this month, Hope to Die: The Christian Meaning of Death and the Resurrection of the Body by Dr. Scott Hahn.
Death is never an easy topic for us to face. Unfortunately, we will face it many times. Either it will be a result of loved ones passing away or will be us staring the inevitable down. We will all face death. The key is to remember after this life we are in for one heck of a family reunion. We cannot forget this, and Scott does a masterful job turning our attention to the glories of heaven which we all hope to one day enjoy.
Before we enter into our heavenly reward, we have our mortal bodies to contend with. Our bodies are a gift. We are taught that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. It’s in this reality that Scott places this book and affirms the Church’s teaching, which society would rather we push aside. The world in which we find ourselves looks upon the body as a burden. Once we eclipse our “prime,” the body gets old, burdensome, ugly, hard to move, and expensive to upkeep. We as Christians know better, and Scott reminds us of this in Hope to Die.
We have a few things in our toolbox that non-believers do not. One of those is the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Scott takes a deep dive into the Creation story to confirm this for readers. He points out that not only do we receive the gift of life in a physical (bios) form but in a spiritual (zoe) form as well. Each of us has a Divine life gifted to us by God. It’s what separates us from other living creatures, and it is what makes us uniquely human.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of our own glory in the afterlife is what sets us as Christians apart from the world. Christ himself promises us two resurrections. Physical resurrection of the body and a spiritual resurrection that we receive at Baptism. The first makes us who we are as Christians; the second makes us complete because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
When the day of our death finally arrives, we also are different. The respect we pay to our bodies after death by giving them a proper burial serves as a reminder. Our burials show the world that we hope and, in fact know, that we are not done with these mortal bodies. They are more than skin that is shed like a snake. As we bury our bodies, we show the world that we are not afraid of death, but rather we are overjoyed by death. Why? Because we know of the great riches we will have for all eternity. An eternity where you and I and Scott are united as brothers and sisters to share forever in the riches of our heavenly home. Thank you, Scott for writing this book that reminds of this.
Question: Scott, during this pandemic we are going through, people realize that there is the possibility of a very bad outcome for some – that being death. What comfort can we provide them, knowing what you reveal in this book to comfort and calm them and let them realize there is something greater after this life?
Scott Hahn: The school of suffering is what transforms sinners into saints. It pulls us out of ourselves. I saw it five years ago with my mom when she was dying of stage 4 bone cancer. She was on the brink of despair until suddenly the light of grace came on and she found a joy and a gentle peace that she had never had in 86 ½ years. I’ve seen it elsewhere too, and I think this is what God is preparing us for. Enjoy this life for sure, but accept suffering, and recognize that physical death is inevitable, the loss of natural life. But, we don’t have to die spiritually. When we get Divine life along with the Holy Spirit we recognize that this life is much more valuable than the natural, it’s also more vulnerable because of temptations to mortal sin but even then, baptism isn’t the only sacrament of resurrection. Confession, penance, reconciliation. Call it whatever you want, it leads us back to a life that is infinitely greater than the life that we are going to end up having to lose. What I want people to do is sort of what has happened to me, and that is to recognize that there is life and then there is a greater life. And there is death and there is also a much, much greater death that we wish to avoid in order to live for Christ.
The complete interview can be found at https://www.catholicstand.com/hope-to-die-off-the-shelf-176-with-dr-scott-hahn/
Review by Pete Socks, Special to The Witness