In George Seaton’s film The Proud and the Profane, the steps of a young nurse are traced to a place called Iwo Jima where her husband had been killed in World War II. She goes to the cemetery where her husband lies buried and turns to the caretaker, a shell-shocked soldier, who had seen her husband die. “How did he die?” she asks. “Like an amateur,” he replies. “They teach you how to hurl a grenade and how to fire a mortar, but nobody teaches you how to die. There are no professionals in dying.”
Most of us avoid the subject of death. It’s a taboo subject. We pretend that we are going to live forever. But the only way we can keep up that pretense is through massive denial. Woody Allen said,
“When I die, all I want is just a few of my good friends to gather around the casket and do everything in their power to bring me back to life.”
Everyone dies – that we can accept. But somehow, we think we will be the exception. Jesus knew of the innate fear in the heart of the disciples concerning death, — his death and theirs. Jesus also knew that they would all pay a terrible price for their future ministry. So, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the apostles that he is going to become the Messiah by his death and Resurrection.