Friday, June 26, 2009

Are we prepared for our own life after death?

Yesterday when I heard about Ms. Fawcett's and Mr. Jackson's deaths I thought of a delightful and quite imaginative book written by Dr. Peter Kreeft called Between Heaven and Hell. It is written in dialogue prose and focuses on a conversation taking place between President John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley, who die within hours of each other in November of 1963. I wondered if Ms. Fawcett and Mr. Jackson were engaging in a similar conversation. The dialogue is philosophical in nature regarding the truth of heaven, hell and purgatory. It is quite thought provoking to say the least.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that "Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan and to decide his ultimate destiny" (CCC 1013). The Church encourages us to live our life in Christ and to prepare for our death to this earthly life and to live in the fullness of life with Christ in heaven. The question then becomes how do we prepare and are we prepared to let go of this earthly life and live in Heaven? Christ came to show us how to prepare. He was the perfect man exemplar for us. The teachings of the Church remind us of our obligation and responsibilty to live our baptismal call. It is through Baptism that sacramentally we have already "died with Christ" in order to live a new life, (CCC 1010).

There are people who believe that Faith alone will get them to heaven. Jesus taught us the corporal works of mercy and gave us the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes give us attitudes to adopt in living our vocation characteristic of the Christian life with the promise of sharing in the Kingdom of God, our just reward. This is about action, the workings of Christ, not just faith alone. Christ was all about faith and actions.

The Church teaches that heaven is the state of supreme and definitive happiness, the goal of the deepest longings of humanity (CCC 1023). Human beings are all about happiness and the perfect happiness can be found resting in the presence of the Face of God, the Beatific Vision. Whereas hell is a state of self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed. This self-exclusion is a free choice to refuse to believe and be converted from sin (CCC1033). It comes down to our choice and the choices we make in living our life here on earth. It begins here and now. Purgatory, the Church teaches, is a final purification after death for those in friendship with God, a final cleansing of human imperfection before being able to enter the perfection of heaven, (CCC 1031). I have been taught that one must walk through fire so to speak for this cleansing to take place, sounds painful to say the least.

So, what's it going to be, heaven, hell, or purgatory? God is our Judge, but the choice is up to us?

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