According to Don Miguel Ruiz, death is not the biggest fear we have (at least it shouldn’t be?); our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive.
That is taking the risk of standing up and expressing what we really are without the need of putting on our masks.
It is in fact the proper evaluation of our life which is at the root of our fear.
And this is the most destructive, corrosive, limiting, and inhibiting emotion which is a danger to any person who is still alive.
In life we experience many different types of fear, according to different circumstances. In most cases when we talk about fear, we immediately think of physical fearful situations as accidents, death or any other natural calamities.
This is because from the very cradle we are fed with information which conditions our fear-reactions to all the phenomena of life which are potentially dangerous to us.
This kind of fear whether realistic or not, is always deep within us: when I drive across the bridge on River Nyabarongo I still become the little boy of my mother who cautions me to be careful because if a messy situation arises, it might damp me in that giant river.
And I always tighten my brakes on that bridge because of what is now irrational fear in me. That fear that I dread when crossing that muddy river, is no longer physical but psychological fear.
This kind of fear enters our mind in a psychological situation, in which we feel threatened in some way, not necessarily physically, but mainly on the level of our imagination and emotions.
Fear whether physical or psychological is always deadly. In his beautiful words, Lloyd Douglas teaches us how fear can completely destroy us: If a man harbours any sort of fear, it percolates through all thinking, damages his personality and makes him a landlord to a ghost!!
But do not worry, because a clever analysis of your fears will always show you that you have nothing to fear except fear itself.
This idea has been expressed better by Brendan Francis in his famous words that many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them almost always.
However, that philosophy above does not seem to apply to the fear of death. Death has and will always torment man. At its peak, the fear of death becomes a psychological problem which affects millions of people worldwide.
Nonetheless, there is a very plausible wisdom whose view is that our very fundamental fear of death is basically the fear of how we have lived and not how we shall die.
Possibly life is pleasant and death is a peaceful transition.
What might be troublesome is to know how to manage the former and go through the latter. And that is how the church comes in at the beginning of its season of Advent with the theme of preparedness. We must all be prepared not for the worse but for the best.
The church prepares us for the period of Advent with the Gospel according to Mark 13:24-32, where Jesus speaks of the time when he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Everybody shall stand that judgment. Hence, in advent, we not only prepare ourselves for the Feast of Christmas, but we are reminded to ready ourselves in order to meet our creator.
The central message during this period is that when Jesus comes to Judge the Living and the dead, we should all be among the Just who shall be told the following words: “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
And then be invited to spend eternity with Christ. But we are warned that in order for this to happen to us, we must stay prepared because no one can know when his return will be, not even the Son of God knows in his humanity. Only the Father knows.
According to this biblical text, the end of earthly life means a definitive destination which can never be altered once judgment has been passed. Interestingly, the different New Testament writers attribute final judgment to different judges.
Some posit God the Father, others Christ the King, still others say the angels or the apostles and John says that each will judge himself.
Far from being a contradiction, all these views point to the common denominator which is the fact that, in the light of the Truth, all shall be judged with all justice such that no one can deceive or be deceived.
The judgment shall be passed in the most just way and according to all mentioned above. All we have to do for the present is to discover, embrace and fulfil the will of God, being moved by love for Him and acting in a way that pleases Him.
With that, we shall be in God’s grace whether we are alive or dead. In such a state, we shall fear neither death nor life.