HOW COULD DEATH BE MY FRIEND?

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I remember visiting Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago in July, 1996, a few months before he died after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. We sat and talked for about an hour. At times he nodded off because of the medication he was on and his lack of sleep.

He shared with me how at first he saw death as his enemy causing him the greatest anxiety. As a person of faith, he slowly came to see death as his friend. “I will fall asleep one day in my own bed,” he said, “and I will wake up in the loving arms of Jesus. What could be better than that?”

When I got up to leave, I knew that this would be the last time I would see him alive, so I leaned over and hugged him. His body stiffened and he uttered a slight groan. I had forgotten how much his cancer had spread and how bad his spine had become. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I said. He pulled away and looked into my eyes and said, “Med, coming from you, it was worth the pain.”

I think this is what Jesus says to you and to me after all the suffering and the cruel death that he endured because of our sins. When we walk with him, sit with him and listen to him, Jesus says to us,

“Coming from you, it was worth the pain.”

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