‘Rest in peace’ is the final greeting that we are entitled to in this world though it often becomes a mere courtesy to say these precious words about those who leave us forever.
But for this wish to become a reality in our lives we should allow ourselves to rest in hope while alive. Resting in peace is the natural progression of a life spent in hope. David nurtured this hope till the very end. He wrote; ‘Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices. My body also rests secure’ (Ps 16:9). Paul considers this hope as the cornerstone of salvation. ‘For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience’ (Rom 8:24-25).
We come across a person who patiently waited for something that was unseen and unheard in the past. Strangely he was no saint, not even a man with a decent history. He was a criminal and was waiting for the inevitable –death on a cross- when he uttered a few words that compelled the evangelist to record it in the Holy Book. ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Lk 23:42).
Remember that he lived at a time when the thoughts about life after death and more specifically life everlasting, was totally different from what we understand today. Also remember that while uttering these words, he was sure that there was no chance of him escaping from the cross. In those critical moments preceding his death, he somehow mustered the hope to see what was in store for him after death. In a flash, he realized that he was leaving the familiar world that he was in, for good. But simultaneously,he was blessed with a vision of the eternal light that illuminated another kingdom at the end of the tunnel where Jesus was to become king.
The very fact that there is life after death encouraged him to try for it. Luck was on his part as the sole authority to open the doors of this eternal kingdom for him was by his side at that decisive moment. Hope sprouted, flourished, and bloomed in his soul, all in a moment and its fruits came out through his lips. Jesus was quick to reply, as he knew that a word of assurance was the ‘Viaticum’ badly needed for that poor soul. ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Lk 23:43).
For a soul so blessed to hear it from the Lord, death was a mere passover from life in hope to rest in peace.
If a person who was going through moments if excruciating pain could place his whole trust in the Lord in the hope of getting entry into the kingdom of heaven, what prevents us from approaching ‘the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need?” (Heb 4:16).
With the conviction that our prayers will find favor with the throne of grace, let us also pray for the grace to live in hope so that one day we will also rest in peace.