Luke Chapter 23 verse 43.
Though born a prince of Lombardy, Aloysius Gonzaga chose to respond to a vocation to the religious life and consequently transferred all of his wealth and titles to his brother. He joined the Society of Jesus and immediately began to serve the victims of the plague. His ministry was short-lived as he himself contracted the dread disease and died. He was only twenty-three.
A tragic story? To some, yes. We have a tendency to look upon any premature death as being particularly tragic. Many have a hard time making sense of the death of anyone short of the very elderly and the criminal. This mind set is not Christian in origin. It is, rather, characteristic of a culture, which puts all of its hope in its own resources. But listen to what St. Aloysius said to his mother when he wrote to her shortly before his death in the year 1591.
"Take care above all things, most honoured lady, not to insult God's boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God."
Every Sunday, we repeat the words of our Creed in which we profess our belief in "life everlasting", and yet, when someone is born to eternal life, we quite understandably speak of them as being dead and we mourn, often with painful, soul-tearing intensity.
Perhaps the root of the contradiction lies with the word "death." "Death", which always seems to be opposed to "life". After all, a dead fish is not a living fish, a dead flower is not a living plant, a dead battery is not a live battery.
But a human being - united to, and redeemed by, Jesus Christ who rose from the dead - is his or her death the same as that of a fish, a mouse or a blade of grass? Jesus tells us that the answer to that question is an emphatic no!
"This day you will be with me in paradise" . . . He said to the man next to him on Calvary. "With me in paradise" . . . But in what state: Dead? Unaware? Deactivated? What would be so special, so encouraging in such a promise? No, there can be but one context within which this promise was, and continues to be, made. "With me in paradise," as a knowing, loving person whose thirst for truth and whose capacity to love and be loved will be at last totally satisfied.
And so, in the words of the young, dying St. Aloysius: "Do not mourn as dead one living face to face with God."