As time goes by, we hear more and more reports from people who have almost died, people, in fact, who have been ‘clinically dead’. In all the stories from those who have come back to life, we find very similar details. Thus they speak of leaving their bodies behind. They speak of going through something like a dark tunnel with a light at the far end. A light like the sun, though it neither blinds nor burns, a light which keeps growing brighter. As they move closer to the light, their whole life, like a short film, begins to flash before them. They see the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.
Looking at their lives in those short flashes, they sense that the light before them is personal, is somebody rather than some thing. Somebody who views the film with them. Somebody who approves their generous and unselfish actions, but not their mean and selfish ones. Somebody, however, who understands and interprets all the components of their lives as a necessary learning process.
All say that the light – some call it Christ, some call it God, some call it light – is kind and protective, humorous and understanding, forgiving and fulfilling. When they come out of all this, they are changed people, better people, new people.
These reports of ‘near-death’ experiences are interesting, even fascinating and inspiring. Yet we do not really need them to know what will happen to us. We rely rather on the voice of Jesus our Good Shepherd who speaks to us in today’s scripture readings. He communicates everything that friends and followers of Jesus need to know about their destiny.
As the Good Shepherd puts it in the gospel, we will no longer be at risk of either being lost or stolen away by thieves and bandits. On the contrary! He is both our Good Shepherd and the gate that swings open to bring us to green pastures and a magnificent banquet. So, in fact, the light of the Risen Christ, the One whom Peter today calls ‘the shepherd and guardian of your souls’ will be shining on us and on all whom we love. Those other friends of God, that we don’t love as much as we should, will be there with us as well, but changed. In fact, all of us who now and to the end hear and follow the voice of Jesus, our Shepherd, Guide and Protector, will be there together, changed and transformed.
So we can declare with the strongest conviction and the most heart-felt hope, those familiar words from the Creed: ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. AMEN.’