Monday, April 15, 2019
Brother Richard DeMaria
As I understand it, in the past a person on his deathbed would gather friends and family and there distribute his earthly goods — his will — and then give his last words of advice and wisdom. I think this is where the word “testament” comes from in “last will and testament.” So picture yourself being around my deathbed as you read this.
So many people ask me how I am able to remain so positive during this time of diminishment. I think it is my faith. And so in this blog I will attempt to share my last testament with you. I set for myself one task for this Lent, to write as clearly as I can my last testament. This will be an attempt to clarify what I mean by the faith that enables me to remain peaceful and joyful as I approach my death.
It will be difficult because, as I have explained in earlier blogs, I don't have much confidence in human ability to put the important things in life into words. They usually distort the reality that we are trying to convey.
Where to begin? Maybe we’ll start with my understanding of God. We know that the only definition of God that we can find in the New Testament is “God is love.” But that's not very helpful, because love is equally hard to explain. For me, God is made present wherever people reach out to the other, across differences, tribes, nationalities, traditions and lifestyles. When that happens, we are making God present.
For me, the kingdom of God that Jesus talks about will come into this world when all humans begin to practice acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion. So I will encourage those at my deathbed to struggle to overcome every tendency to exclude “the others.” I will encourage them to open their hearts to everyone even if they are of a different tribe or ethnicity. They will be making God present.
This means they need to enter into dialogue with the other, to really listen to what the other person says about his or her life. I am convinced they will discover, if they truly listen, that they are not that different and that they are brothers or sisters. I will also encourage them to regard every action that tends to exclude others as a work of the devil and an action against the coming of the kingdom of God.
It is my belief that by his death and resurrection, Jesus introduced the possibility for humans to love in this more inclusive way. Jesus’ death and resurrection were necessary to bring that about. For me, Jesus as teacher has no equal. His teachings were the work of a mystic and I take them very seriously, especially those which go against common sense: turn the other cheek, love your enemy, forgive someone who sins against you 70 times seven. Impossible in our present consciousness but possible to those invested in the resurrection consciousness of the resurrected Jesus.
So now, what do I expect after my death? Neither the New Testament nor Church doctrine have much to say about this. Without that guidance, I think that I will in some way share in the new consciousness of the resurrected Jesus. And I believe that I, in some way that I don't understand, will continue to be Richard.
It is my hope to die a loyal son of the Roman Catholic Church. Although that form of the church of Jesus is going through very difficult challenges now, I still believe that its doctrine provides the best road signs to the truth. It breaks my heart to see the Roman Catholic Church going through these recent struggles. I have confidence that in some way I can't see, it will continue to be a source of light to the world.
So my advice to everyone is to do everything you can to bridge gaps and not to build walls between yourself and anybody else — no matter how different they seem to you. Open your arms wide, as Jesus did on the cross.