The last words in a book or film are often typed in capital letters: “THE END.” The viewer does not expect any more action; the reader closes the book and does not anticipate hearing any more about these characters, unless a sequel exists or is hinted at. For now, they have come to their final words.
In different contexts “THE END” is spelled out differently. Every prayer seems unfinished without its “Amen.” A parting between friends or family invokes the words “Good-bye” or “Bye” for short. We employ this metaphor when a loved one passes away—a funeral allows us to say our “Good-byes.”
Some people put great stock in the last words spoken by famous people. And Jesus’ final words (7 statements in all) are often a focus for sermons during the season of Lent, as occurred in my local church. When my pastor reflected on the very last word from the cross, he pointed out that this sentence of submission: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” is taken from Psalm 31:5. In that original context, the psalm writer was not at all hinting at death or “the end.” Rather he was committing himself to God by continuing to live in Him. When Jesus speaks these words in Luke 23:46, he does so not in a resigned whisper but a loud declaration! There is more to come. Life will be returned to the Lord and Giver of life.
Because Jesus’ death was part of a greater plan that involved resurrection on the third day, the other endings in our life are not final either. When we speak a prayer to the Father, our “Amen” does not mean “that’s all done and over with.” It is a triumphant “so be it,” an invitation for God to carry our requests forward according to his perfect timing. When we say “Good-bye” we keep in mind the original phrase it has been shortened from: “God be with ye.” We expect that our relationship will carry on even if distances may separate us for a time. Even our so-called final good-byes are not final at all for those who embrace the resurrection life of the Son of God. They are a temporary “see you later” until that time when all things are made new.
That knowledge is reflected in the practice of remembering not the birthdays of saints and martyrs, but the day of their death. It was actually a new beginning...