Everyone seems so shocked and surprised when we hear about a sudden death. It seems to hit people especially hard when it is a celebrity or someone who is still young. Even people of Faith, seem to reel in the tragedy of a life lost “too soon”. What exactly though is “too soon’? Who are we to make that judgement? Isn’t God the one who knows all and acts accordingly? Aren’t we questioning his authority and righteousness when questioning these events?
I know that we don’t mean to challenge God with these kinds of comments, but we do, we trivialize his role in our lives and in the world.
So, why is this? We all know that life can be taken from us in an instant. It is a part of living after all, and with it comes the means in which we are reborn into eternal life, with our Lord and Savior. Or is that the problem? Whenever someone dies, the typical quotes that you see or hear is how that person is now at peace and with their loved ones. But are they?
Were they ready? Will we be ready?
Are these the realities that we face when someone dies? Realities that we don’t really want to face head on? Realities that we wrestle with an honest answer for?
Are we ready to see the Lord, and be judged by him face to face? Are we accepting and assuming that we will all rest in him upon death even when there may be no foundation of a life well lived to base that on? Do we see ourselves miraculously transformed in to angelic beings with glowing transcendence and bright white wings, fluttering about eternity among the rays of the sun and the lightness of the clouds?
Well, if we do, we are probably fooling ourselves. Maybe the death of someone we know or know about causes us to face this reality. Why else, would the death of someone be so sad? After all, if they are entering into eternal glory, shouldn’t we be rejoicing? We may feel sorrow for ourselves because we will miss them, but most of us feel sorrow for the departed.
The image we have of the life to come, is also very distorted. We are very ignorant of our Faith, and what waits for us in eternity. We are not purely spiritual beings like angels, and if we have this notion of the life to come, we probably have some work to do. We really need to educate and become knowledgeable about what our entire lives here on Earth are geared for.
Maybe death causes us to doubt, about everything. Maybe it should. Many of us live in ways very contrary to the teachings of the gospel and the Church we profess to believe in. We fail to commit to making our spiritual lives and relationship with God a priority. We openly defy obedience to the Church and her teaching in favor of choices contrary to what the Gospel dictates. We take on the individual responsibility to decide what Truth is, and then live accordingly, because that is easy, tolerant and fits in to our false notion of love and goodness.
We justify ourselves by believing that a good God would never send us to Hell. Well, that is true. God sends nobody to Hell, we send ourselves there. When we openly reject God and everything and anything that He stands for, which is Truth, we reject relationship with God. It is our choice. We have free will, the greatest, kindest and most devastating gift God gives us. It leads many to destruction, because they reject God, and instead live for themselves. God doesn’t force himself on anyone. That would not be loving, and free. That would be a dictatorship. God is not a dictator. With our freedom, comes responsibility. Ignorance of a Faith that one rejects is not acceptable, any more than ignorance of the law, exonerates the law breaker. It really boils down to this, do we love God more than we love ourselves? Do we actually even understand what love is in the first place?
We should be fearful of death. We aren’t living our lives in preparation for it. We are living to be happy, and to please our Earthly desires and passions. We live to love our lives, and not our God. We strive for happiness and not holiness. If we strive for holiness then we should be joyful at what death will bring us, isn’t Heaven the most awesome place ever after all? Isn’t that what are lives should be centered on achieving?
It isn’t automatic. Sure, God is perfect mercy, but he is also the perfect judge. Do you really think that justice yields the same reward for someone who has lived the life of Saint Theresa of Calcutta as to someone like Beyonce? I tend to think that Heaven probably isn’t going to be very “heavenly” if anyone and everyone is allowed admittance. The perfection that is required for entry into Heaven, if not obtained here on Earth, will either be deemed not obtainable at all, or will require some time of purification in Purgatory.
Purgatory seems to be another place that is feared and denied by those who prefer that straight path to perfection in Heaven. It is a place of joy and suffering, but still way better than life here on Earth.
My Pastor often jibes that he is ready to go, he eagerly bids us farewell as he looks forward to leaving this Earth and entering Eternity. He has a very interesting and unique perspective. As I reflect on it, I strive for the same perspective. If we truly believe, and we truly strive for the Holiness that Jesus and our Faith demands of us, we should look forward to death. We should be eagerly anticipating it and looking forward to the glory that has been promised to us with our God in Heaven. After all, we do proclaim this every week in the Creed, the profession of our Faith, don’t we?
That is if we truly believe, that is if we are really ready and living accordingly. It’s not an easy journey. To be the best never is. It is the only journey worth taking though. It has the greatest destination that can be imagined. Get ready, be prepared, and do not fear. Jesus, I trust in you! Carry me home!