Over the past century, there has been an explosion in the amount of statistics that are gathered on just about every topic. We collect unimaginable amounts of data points about an overwhelming number of subjects, then slice and dice that information into digestible bits for news stories on TV, in magazines, and online. You’re hard-pressed to go a single day without seeing a pie chart, bar chart, or pictograph showing you compelling data about… something. “Look at THIS big bar and what it represents to millions of people!” “See how THIS big slice represents a bunch of people who are not you!” “Look how THIS line is going up dramatically, and that’s a terrible sign! Something MUST be done!”
Not all of this data collection and analysis is a bad thing, but so much of what we see is doom-and-gloom. “Twenty four percent of Americans die from heart disease!” the headlines scream. “Twenty one percent die from cancer!” “Tobacco use contributes to thirty-nine percent of all cancer deaths!” “Fifty percent of meat eaters develop heart disease compared to only four percent of vegans!” “Forty-two percent of all cancers are preventable!” With headlines like these, it makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning. But there’s certainly a statistic telling you what percentage of people who don’t get out of bed in the morning die from some sort of stay-in-bed-related illness.
So we see all this stuff and we hear our doctors say “eat right and exercise and take this pill and that supplement,” and we do. And, dutifully, capitalistic industries have sprung up to make money easing our fears. Globally, the market for dietary supplements and vitamins is about $150 billion. Fitness is a $600 billion industry. Healthy eating and weight loss is a $700 billion industry. Pharmaceuticals is about an $800 billion industry. This doesn’t even include the billions spent by universities on research in these areas.
Isn’t it interesting that as we as a society have slowly removed God from our lives, that our fears of death have gotten more and more pronounced?
Here are some other statistics. Statistics that to some people may be frightening. One hundred percent of people who eat meat will die. One hundred percent of people who smoke cigarettes will die. One hundred percent of people who don’t exercise will die. But also, one hundred percent of vegans will die, one hundred percent of non-smokers will die, and one hundred percent of marathon runners with normal blood pressure and perfect body fat compositions will die. One hundred percent of the people in this very room… will die.
This isn’t to say we should just let ourselves go to waste, that we should just live fast, party hard, die young, and leave a pretty corpse. St. Paul reminds us that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and like everything that God gives us, we need to take care of it. We may be saved by God’s grace, but we will be judged by our works and that includes the works of taking care of the bodies God has loaned to us.
But the inescapable fact remains that we will all die. No matter how far we run in the marathon of our lives, death will be waiting for us at the finish line. With this certainty looming over us, we need to be asking ourselves: are we taking our spiritual medicine as often as we are taking our vitamins? Are we making sure that those we care about are getting their spiritual medicine? Are we exercising our faith as much as we’re exercising our bodies? Are we listening to the teachings of the Church and the advice of our clergy as much as we’re listening to the advice of our doctors? Sometimes that spiritual pill is bitter medicine. Sometimes it’s a pill we don’t want to take, or a pill we don’t agree with, but it’s a pill we need to take if we want to live forever.
When Jesus Christ carried His cross to the top of the hill at Calvary, He knew what was waiting for Him at the top: death. Like Him, we know that there is a 100% chance that our physical death is unavoidable. But as believers in salvation through Christ’s death, we also know that there is a 100% chance that our Redeemer will be waiting for us there, offering us the eternal life that His death — and His resurrection — provided for us all.