Praying Mentis

A Laymen's Journey into the Catholic faith.

Friday, August 17, 2012

On Hope in Death Part 1

I was not originally going to make this post. Why? Because, who in their right mind writes about death, especially when it is such a sensitive topic to everyone? But then again, why wouldn't a Catholic write about death? I've read countless other blogs that proclaim the message "carpe diem", seize the day, live for the moment... But what does that really mean? And so, thus begins my first trilogy--on death!

My question is this: Why have fear in death when you can have hope in death instead? This would be like opting for the treasure chest by itself instead of the treasure inside of it. You can truly live when you hope in death.

Society's view of death is a message of escape-- by living in the moment and never missing out on an "opportunity". There's this idea that there are constantly fleeting moments that you have to take advantage of by taking risks and embracing pleasure -- these magical moments that can be taken away from you. By death. But what do you actually lose when you die? When you're a Catholic the question becomes, 'What do I gain from death?'

The past few weeks I have been reading St. Paul, who writes about his hope in death:

"...We were utterly weighed down beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, we had accepted within ourselves the sentence of death, that we might trust not in ourselves but in God.  Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead..." (2 Co 1:8–9)

St. Paul writes that death is not a bad thing, it is God's instrument of hope, and even trust. We have to trust in God's mercy when we die, and the promise of a life in heaven after we die can give us unimaginable hope when we actually embrace God's promise. Likewise, when our loved  ones die we have to hope they are in God's kingdom -- that they are happier than we had ever seen them during their lives on earth. 

St. Paul continues:"...Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. 9 Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil..." (2 Co 5:8–10). 

We cannot fear death as Catholics. God calls us throughout our lives to walk with him, and death actually puts us literally, by His side. Death brings us to our long awaited home and to our loving Father. This is what the Catholic Church has taught since its beginning during the time of the early Church fathers, and many of the saints write on the subject as well:

"...For God has called man and still calls him so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption..." (Gaudium Et Spes)

St. Ignatius of Antioch writes in his letters while the Church is being persecuted: "For though I am alive while I write to you, I am eager to die." St. Dominic writes about how he will be more useful to others in death, "Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life." Perhaps the reason for this is because often, we can do more in death than life. St. Teresa wrote,"I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth."
Some, actually now that I think about it-- many considering how long I have talked about this, have called me fatalistic. I am not saying, go forth and die ye now because then ye will finally be with God. I am saying do not  fear death. If you do fear death, then fear death because it puts an end to your ability to love those around you by being physically present in the world. Even so, let me say this, this world is spiritual and physical. Scott Hahn said in his book, "Signs of life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots" that our  salvation is very much so spiritual  and unseen. But the Catholic Church is the physical manifestation of that. I say this because I want all Catholic to believe that death is not the end for us. Eighty years out of  an eternity is still only eighty years. And although the spiritual reality of our salvation and those who have perished before us is hidden, it's still there. 

In conclusion, I don't have a problem with idea of living in the moment. I have a problem with this idea that we are constantly escaping a fleeting moment, and so we need to do as much as we can before we die with the hidden emphasis of to enrich our lives and those around us with positive memories. There is one question that we will ask ourselves on our death bed... It is not, did I live enough? Did I get to go wild in my youth? Did I get to see all the places I wanted to see? It is the same question God himself will ask us, "Did you love those around you the same way I have loved you?"  The question will be how much did you die to those around you. So I guess I would not have a beef with the motto,  "we should live for the moment" if there was a conjunction that said by dying and sacrificing for those around us. This is what we should be focusing on everyday, and everything else comes as a fruitful by product of living with that as your upmost priority. Love with all of your heart, give to the best of your ability as much as you can, die to yourself, because all other regrets will unquestionably be forgotten.  I will end with this quote by Saint Paul:

"But if Christ is preached as raised form the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is not resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, the empty too is our preaching; empty, to, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sings. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death,  for “he subjected everything under his feet...” (1 Corinthians 12-27)

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