There’s a quote from the Harry Potter series that has always struck me: “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
Today, we are again asked to consider martyrdom, this time in recognition of the feast of St. Charles Lwanga and companions. They were killed in Uganda in the 1880’s for opposition to tyrant leadership and an unwillingness to deny their faith. They are a profound witness. What strikes me most is the peace and joy with which they faced their deaths.
Why would anyone face their end in peace and joy? We will all die, and yet, there’s something unsettling about considering it. It is, after all, completely unknown to us, the experience of our last breaths. Yet, when we consider the Gospel, a hint exists in how we too can find peace and joy in facing our death–the gift of eternal life through our relationship with and knowledge of God. In God, death becomes new life. In Christ, the darkness gives way to light. In prayer and in faith, the goal of our lives becomes clear: to be with God now and always. May we rest joyfully and peacefully forever in that truth.
—Eric Immel, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Wisconsin Province, is studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.