Franciscan Spirit Blog

Lent with St. Francis: Sister Death

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Year A: Ezekiel 37:12–14;
Psalm 130:1–2, 3–4, 5–6, 7–8;
Romans 8:8–11;
John 11:1–45
Year B: Jeremiah 31:31–34;
Psalm 51: 3–4, 12–13, 14–15;
Hebrews 5:7–9;
John 12:20–33
Year C: Isaiah 43:16–21;
Psalm 126:1–2a, 2b–3, 4–5, 6;
Philippians 3:8–14;
John 8:1–11

“Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’” —John 11:24–25

Death always startles us with its suddenness, its finality. Even when a loved one has been sick for a long time and death comes as a relief for both the sufferer and those left behind, the initial reaction is one of shock. In cases of sudden, accidental death, this reaction is magnified. We who believe in the resurrection are no less likely to experience this human reaction.

We resonate with Mary’s response to Jesus about her belief in the resurrection at the end of time. Our minds and our faith tell us one thing, but our hearts and our bodies often balk at the appearance of separation and loss that for a time is all too real and unavoidable. Like so much of our spiritual lives, we have to learn to live with this paradox.

We see it differently at different times in our life. When we’re young, death is an infrequent and scary interruption of life. When we’re old, we sometimes feel like we’ve seen too much death over the course of a long life, and it seems almost unbearable in its familiarity. The promise of resurrection at the heart of our faith allows us to celebrate our loved ones even in their passing, because we know that life, not death, is the final reality.

The final verse of St. Francis’s “Canticle of the Creatures” praises bodily death. Scholars tell us that Francis added these words shortly before his own death, after Brother Leo and Brother Angelo had sung the Canticle at his request. Thomas of Celano tells us that Francis’s last words were, “Welcome, my Sister Death.”


All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.

St. Francis of Assisi collection

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