Memento Mori

A blessed and joyous feast of the Baptism of the Lord, commemorating the beginning of Christ’s public ministry which, as more than exegete has put it, was a prelude to His Passion and Death. For the water of baptism signify not just rebirth, but also a plunging into that very mystery of death, necessary to gain the new life of the resurrection. As the Catechism has it:

If water springing up from the earth symbolizes life, the water of the sea is a symbol of death and so can represent the mystery of the cross. By this symbolism Baptism signifies communion with Christ’s death.

Yet, at the same time:

Baptism is prefigured in the crossing of the Jordan River by which the People of God received the gift of the land promised to Abraham’s descendants, an image of eternal life. the promise of this blessed inheritance is fulfilled in the New Covenant.

And it is that Life that Christ came to Earth to offer us, abundantly. So recall your own Baptism today, find out when it was, celebrate your patron saint, for this sacrament is the greatest gift your parents gave you – a share in Christ’s own Baptism –  and we should be grateful beyond measure.

It is in this light that we should place tragedies such as Ukrainian Flight 752. Christ asked rhetorically whether those dozen and six people crushed by the tower of Siloam deserved such a fate more than anyone else (cf., Luke 13:4). His question implied that, however, distantly, all punishment is a consequence of sin, stemming Pandora-like from that original Fall, whose baneful effects echo through the ages. As Pope Saint John Paul II puts it in his 1984 meditation of suffering, Salvifici Doloris:

Though it is not licit to apply here the narrow criterion of direct dependence (as Job’s three friends did), it is equally true that one cannot reject the criterion that, at the basis of human suffering, there is a complex involvement with sin.

For whatever reason in the mystery of divine providence, those 176 souls who perished unexpectedly before what they thought would be their time – men, women, children, newlyweds, students – are now before the just and good God, a fate that awaits us all; and whether the end comes by falling tower or airplane, the deaths of others are a memento mori, for ourselves, that we must all repent, and be prepared to meet our Maker, any hour or any minute.

We pray for their souls, for those left behind, for the perpetrators, whatever their fault in this, in that corrupt, incompetent Islamocracy that is Iran; those who sow death will reap its bitter fruits. All we can hope in our Catholic faith is that God brings great good out of even the worst of evils; for we must all at the least die to Christ, in order to rise with Him.