Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 29, 2004
Yes, Thomas is with his Lord
Iraqi terrorists shot a 19-year-old soldier; a friend offers friendship, prayer, Jesus' promise
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
I received a shocking telephone call recently. A dear American friend's son was killed by terrorist insurgents in Iraq. His parents, Richard and Lee Ann Doerflinger, lost their son Thomas at the age of 19 years. He was killed on Nov. 11 - the day we have traditionally set aside to honour the military actions and sacrifices of so many in a number of wars.
Sadly, Thomas Doerflinger joins the legions of soldiers who paid the ultimate price so that millions of others might live in freedom or freedom from fear.
Nothing can diminish the painful loss his parents are enduring at this time. Their faith is their greatest ally and source of hope that they will be re-united with Thomas again. It is my fervent prayer that in some small way they will find comfort in the knowledge that their son died in the critical war against the menace of global terrorism - which threatens us all. There is so little to offer the Doerflingers in their sorrow except prayer and friendship.
I have a fondness for Richard Doerflinger. He was one of the links in a chain that led me to Catholicism. Richard is deputy director of the secretariat for pro-life activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, D.C.
We first met in 1997 when he invited me to Washington to address an international conference dealing with physician-assisted suicide. That event opened the door for me to address various forums across America about life and disability issues. Rich became a trusted friend and confidant.
The Doerflingers have the same hope of all who live and die in the hope of Jesus Christ: We will be with him in eternal glory. We read in the Scriptures: "This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with (Christ) we shall also live with him" (2 Timothy 2:11).
What a tremendous hope we have. We shall meet again those we have loved and lost to death in the eternal glory of Christ. No more will we know the painful loss of loved ones.
St. John wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away'" (Revelation 21.3-4)
God wipes our tears away
John's divine vision came from God and he was told the words were "trustworthy and true" (verse 5). It is God himself who will wipe away every tear from those who mourn. What greater comfort could we ask than the tender embrace of almighty God? Those who mourn in Christ will be cradled in his infinite love, freed from the burden of sorrow and pain.
We are promised that the indescribable mourning of the soul that comes from the death of a loved one will end and give way to bliss. Our joy will be complete in Christ Jesus. In Christ, death itself will be vanquished. It will be vanquished because Christ has authority over death. He promised that those who believe in him shall have eternal life.
This lies at the heart of Christian faith.
About 60 years after our Lord's Ascension, St. John related an encounter he had with Jesus on the island of Patmos:
"When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, 'Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld'" (Revelation 1:17-18).
Christians take heart! Our Master and King holds the keys to death. He will liberate our loved ones, and us too, from the last enemy which is death. That is a great hope of those who live and die in Christ Jesus.
My offering to Rich and Lee Ann Doerflinger is my prayers, friendship and a reminder that they will see Thomas again in glory with Christ. This is not empty rhetoric about some sweet bye-and-bye; I am referring to our final reality. I believe this with all my heart: So have millions of other Christians throughout the ages.
During periods of great persecution, they chose death rather than deny their faith and the reality of Jesus Christ in whose resurrection we shall all partake. Perhaps they saw in their last moment on earth what Stephen saw in his: "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:56, 59).
We have it on good authority that death is not the end; it is only a beginning. It is a new and glorious beginning.
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