Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By F. K. Bartels

5/10/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While one has no choice in making himself available for the unrelenting and steady advance of death, by uniting ourselves to the saving death of Christ crucified, life triumphs over death, and the victor is crowned with everlasting life.

There are no ranks among the victors over death for libertines, religious freethinkers, and those who value pride and power over meekness, humility and love. Those who raise the banner of triumph, adorned with everlasting life, do so by the saving death of Christ. While we have no choice in making ourselves available for death, with proper preparation through a life lived for love of God and love for the truth, uniting ourselves to Christ crucified, at the moment of its arrival we can say joyfully: "O death, where is thy sting?" (Hosea 13:14).

Highlights

By F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/10/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: death, physical death, afterlife, life after death, death of the body, what happens after death, Christ crucified, particular judgement, general judgment, judgment, meeting God, sleeping in death, sleeping in Christ, preparing for death, preparation for de


GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) -- Seneca, a man who shared an approximate time of birth with Jesus Christ, wrote an essay in Rome titled "On The Shortness of Life" in about the year 55 A.D. It focuses on the dangers of preoccupation, and on the precious, irretrievable nature of time and its often unrecognized value in the life of the human person. Following is a short excerpt:

"No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself. Life will follow the path it began to take and will neither reverse nor check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king's command or a people's favor. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that."

Seneca notes that, much sooner than one would think, this life will end. The more we are convinced of its slow and steady onward march, the more shocked we will be when the last day, hour and moment suddenly arrives. How much time do we spend daily in preparing for death's unanticipated, quiet or violent appearance? Further, how is one to be made ready for this once-in-a-lifetime event, so often banished from our thoughts as if it could somehow be avoided by the silly refusal to give it recognition, while it nevertheless continues its unwavering advance?

What is it like to die? Regardless of how we might cast death from our thoughts, closing the mind to the inevitable while busying ourselves with the present, we shall one day know it well. Whatever glittery treasures have been erected, whatever power may be wielded in the present, in death these things provide less leverage and persuasive weight than a single, insignificant blade of straw. In that moment, humility before God must reign supreme, for we must let go of every once of self-reliance, since we are powerless to do anything save to hopefully await those most highly desirable words of mercy: "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master" (Mt 25:21).

Unfortunately, so heavily preoccupied with the minor details of contemporary living, we often fail to recognize that a good death is the goal we ought to have in mind as we rise each morning and continue on our way throughout the day. In carefully and wisely ordering our life toward a good death, we then order our life properly in relation to God, who is ultimately responsible for sustaining us in life, death, and beyond into eternal life. As Catholics pray in Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours: "Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit."

Perhaps part of the solution to this problem of ignoring death and failing to prepare for it, is to think about who we are. It is not enough to simply know that we are people, that we desire things, and then proceed in blind, hungry pursuit of these things while the Sun tracks steadily across the sky. We are human persons made in the image and likeness of God and composed of body and soul, whose destiny is not annihilation against a dark, impenetrable wall called death but rather a new and glorified state of life as a resurrected people. We are made to share in the glorious everlasting life of God. However, the attainment of eternal communion with God is predicated on dying in a state of loving God; i.e. in God's friendship rather than having died unrepentant and in rejection of him.

That we are destined to be resurrected does not mean we shall "go to sleep" until Christ returns and the general resurrection of the dead occurs (see CCC 997 ff.). The human soul is spiritual, immaterial and immortal: it cannot be "killed" nor destroyed, and therefore does not "sleep" in death. On the contrary, as the soul passes through the veil of death and separates from the body it experiences the particular judgement (see CCC 1021-1022), after which it proceeds either to heaven directly, to heaven via the merciful and loving purification of purgatory, or to hell directly. The body dies and sleeps in death as it awaits the resurrection, not the soul. The reality of these two final states, heaven or hell, should be enough to awaken everyone to the need for preparation for death's imminent arrival.

"At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love"--St. John of the Cross

We ought to be mindful, then, that we are body and soul. Too often, people give all attention to the body, focusing on satisfying its physical needs and desires, while giving little or no thought to the soul, its spiritual and immortal nature, and to careful preparation for the next life. St. Theresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, wrote about this very situation:

"It is no small pity, and would cause us no little shame, that, through our own fault, we do not understand ourselves, or know who we are. Would it not be a sign of great ignorance, my daughters, if a person were asked who he was, and could not say, . . . though that is great stupidity, our own is incomparably greater if we make no attempt to discover what we are, and only know that we are living in these bodies, and have a vague idea, because we have heard it and because our Faith tells us so, that we possess souls. . . . All our interest is centered in the rough setting of the diamond, and the outer wall of the castle--that is to say, in these bodies of ours" (Interior Castle 4).

Perhaps, also, wariness against the distinctly contemporary tendency to view life as a type of game is in order. Some align themselves with the enemy of truth, the devil, and play for temporal  but fleeting winnings; others roll the dice for both temporal and eternal rewards, hoping to skate to heaven through an unwanted yet required stay in purgatory after relishing in a multitude of earthly delights. Still others--dare we say few?--understand that life is an unrepeatable opportunity to grow and mature in love for Christ, infuse love everywhere throughout the world, and gain an everlasting share of glory with God. In any case, life is not a game, for the stakes are vast and forever.

"The Lord sends us into spiritual combat. It is a fight to the death that he himself has undertaken," wrote then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio prior to his election as Pope Francis to the Chair of Peter, "and one that we too are invited to identify as our own ultimate battleground, conscious that it is God's war. For it is a war waged 'against the enemy of human nature,' that is, in the language of Saint Ignatius, the devil. It is also the war waged by 'the friend of human nature,' the Lord Jesus, who wants to win us for God and to gather up into himself all that is good in creation in order to offer it to the Father, to the praise of his glory.

"What is at stake in this war? It is whether in my heart, as well as in the heart of the Church and of humanity itself, the Kingdom of Heaven will be established, with his law of love and the Lord's way of life: poverty, humility, and service. Or whether the kingdom of this world will triumph, with its laws and values of wealth, vanity, and pride."

The definitive solution to the problem of death is a dynamic encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ, who, as the Word made flesh, died for humankind that we might, in living for him, share in his own everlasting life. Jesus is the divine and human Healer who removes our fear of death, not by covering it over or by ignoring it, but by destroying death itself through his saving death and the communication of his supernatural life to those who love him. As St. Paul teaches, in virtue of baptism into Christ's death, those who have died with Christ will also live with him (Rom 6:3, 8). Christ crucified is, then, the light that burns away death. However, it is not enough to simply say "I believe," and then continue sleepily and heedlessly onward as if to be Christian means nothing more than making the phrase "do not be afraid" the standard by which to live.

To prepare for death is, then, to live by the words and deeds of Jesus Christ--all of them. Here we must pay special concern for the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church Jesus himself instituted two thousand years ago (see Mt 16:17-19) as the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), today led by Pope Francis and the bishops around the world in communion with him, whose words of truth and sacraments of life provide the warm, healing light we so desperately need to burn away the icy horrors of death.

Because life is a real spiritual battle, the importance of truth cannot be overemphasized. There are no ranks among the victors for libertines, religious freethinkers, and those who value pride and power over meekness, humility and love. Those who raise the banner of triumph, adorned with everlasting life, do so by the saving death of Christ. Humanity needs to know and understand its origin, purpose and destiny; how to live and what it means to live; how to die and what it means to die. Simply, we need to understand the story of God and the story of humanity. As a result of our smallness, finitude and failings, the darkness of the intellect and the weakness of the human will, the fullness of the truth that subsists in the Church and which she transmits to the world becomes a matter crucial to spiritual health.

While we have no choice in making ourselves available for death, as Seneca noted, with proper preparation through a life lived for love of God and love for the truth, uniting ourselves to Christ crucified, at the moment of its arrival we can say joyfully: "O death, where is thy sting?" (Hosea 13:14).

-----

F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows the Catholic Church transmits the fullness of truth and offers the fullest means of salvation; therefore his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Living Faith

Pope says he's willing to speak to Islamic State - says nations are likewise guilty of 'terrorism' Watch

Image of After addressing the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Pope Francis also told journalists that the threat of terrorism was not the only horror weighing on the world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Asked about the possibilities of discussion with Islamic State, Pope Francis said, "I never count anything as lost. Never. Never close the door. It's difficult, you could say almost impossible, but the door is always open." The Pontiff went forward to say that ... continue reading


Take the Catholic Online Thanksgiving Challenge! Watch

Image of Reaching out to others is precisely the way to show that we are thankful for what we have.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a holiday filled with family and food, often spent on televised parades and football, and naps after lunch. Kids play in the yard or the streets as everybody generally has a good time. However, this is not the case for millions of ... continue reading


Unborn, terminally ill and elderly are treated as objects in Europe, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of If we uphold the dignity of the person we are acknowledging the

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Despite talk of human rights, too many people are treated as objects in Europe: unborn, terminally ill, and the elderly," Pope Francis said. Speaking at the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, the pontiff said that "We're too tempted to throwaway lives we ... continue reading


Church recognizes six new saints as Pope Francis canonizes in Sunday ceremony, speaking about how we too shall be judged Watch

Image of Indian well-wishers gather at the Vatican for the Canonization ceremony.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has canonized six new saints, two Indians and four Italians, praising their lives as "extraordinary" and reminding us all that we will be judged by how we treat others. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis recognized six new saints on Sunday, ... continue reading


Pope says church must extend help to immigrants, 'so that all may be treated as children of God' Watch

Image of The world must now recognize the advantages of migration. Host countries get new workers to meet production needs,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking to the 300 participants in the Vatican-sponsored World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, the Pope says that the Catholic Church "is a mother without limits and without borders." He says that the church must welcome and assist all of God's children, ... continue reading


Feast of Christ the King and Advent: What Does it Mean? Watch

Image of The Church really IS the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ. That Body is inseparably joined to the Head. Jesus Christ is alive, he has been raised, and he continues His redemptive mission now through the Church, of which we are members. As we choose to actually live our lives liturgically, not just go through the motions, we can move through life in the flow of the liturgical calendar. We can experience the deeper mystery and meaning of life, now made New in Jesus Christ, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6,7) Jesus Christ is King! Jesus Christ is meant to become the Lord of our whole lives, and inform the very pattern of how we live them.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On November 23rd we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Liturgical Church year offers to each of us consider the creature which is called time, receive it as a gift and begin to really live differently. Yet, for ... continue reading


Two bishops dine and dialogue with peace activists

Image of War doesn't decide who is right, just who is left.

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops fall assembly in Baltimore, two bishops decided to forego the military chaplains dinner sponsored by the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Office, and attended instead a simple supper and discussion on peacemaking. On the evening of ... continue reading


'God always forgives, but the earth does not,' Pope warns Watch

Image of The Pope urged the world's leaders to rein in their greed and help the hungry.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A doomsday scenario in which Mother Nature would exact her revenge is possible, even likely, Pope Francis warns. The pontiff was speaking out against the exploitation of natural resources for profit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pope urged the world's ... continue reading


Pope Francis' special message: Why Poverty? 'And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain'

Image of When we give our loaves and fishes to Christ, there is no end to the Good that can come from it.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has asked the world to do more to help those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Despite gains made in infrastructure and outpourings of food, too many people with plenty have done too little to help. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With ... continue reading


How do you raise a good, upstanding child? With daily prayers, weekly church attendance and the knowledge of God Watch

Image of Billy Graham, now 96, has reached out to millions with his joyous words of the truth of God and Jesus Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Billy Graham, the world famous television evangelist and founder and chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has said that the reason the world seems to be in such dire straits is that children are not being raised right. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 15:1-4
1 And I saw in heaven another sign, great and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 7-8, 9
1 [Psalm] Sing a new song to Yahweh, for he has ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:12-19
12 'But before all this happens, you will be seized ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 26th, 2014 Image

St. John Berchmans
November 26: Eldest son of a shoemaker, John was born at Diest, Brabant. He ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter