Facing the perspective of eternal life
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
In his book ‘Testimony’ Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz describes his experiences related to the passing away of the beloved John Paul II to the Father’s house. He stresses that he always accompanied the Holy Father and now he was passing away alone. Certainly, that’s why people say that they are afraid of death because of loneliness of this moment of leaving this world. Their fears are bigger when they have no faith in eternal life or when they reject Lord God and his grace for various reasons... In her funeral liturgy the Church reminds us of the fact that each of us must irrevocably cross the threshold of death. She also reminds us of that in a special way on All Saints’ Day. Then we notice the other perspective – life after death, which will be another life and it depends on us what kind of life it will be. The Holy Father Benedict XVI gives a beautiful analysis of Christian faith about that perspective in his encyclical ‘Spe salvi’, which can be briefly described as an important statement that faith is hope. In the issues 14-17/2008 of ‘Niedziela’ we also published the debate about death, God’s judgement as well as heaven, purgatory and hell, which was held in our editorial board. The aim of the debate was to deepen our reflection on the eschatological matters. Death is this moment when man’s life takes on a new formula. The preface in Holy Mass says, ‘Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended...’ However, the problem is that this information has not reached many of us. In his instructive story about the rich man and poor man named Lazarus (see Luke 16, 19-31) Lord Jesus says that this truth, although it was powerfully proclaimed by the prophets, is hard to accept by people who are totally preoccupied with accumulating earthy goods and enjoying them and they do not want to hear that our life on earth is an important introduction, an overture to further life – eternal life. That’s why, the Church introduces various pastoral practices so that people pay attention to that and prepare themselves to their meetings with God. We admire the human organism: beating of the heart, working of the mind, blood circulation; we admire everything what happens in the human organism and which makes man some extraordinary, extremely precise machine. Oh well! It is a whole factory but even modern electronic tools bear no relation to it. However, this ‘mechanism’ will stop working one day and will stand before the One who will decide about his/her eternal reality. We can hardly imagine and foresee the concrete of life beyond the grave. Lord Jesus uses images, ‘In my Father's house there are many dwelling places’ (John 14:2) and he proved many times that he controlled this unknown reality. We know one thing for sure: we must prepare ourselves to this meeting with God who wants our salvation, who gave us his Son so that we benefit from his salvific suffering and the work of salvation. This is a great mystery that a believer, looking at Christ the Saviour that brings his offer of eternal life, experiences. The offer is supported by real help of the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and Jesus’ Gospel, and first of all by the concrete in the form of ‘fundamental bill’ for our Christian life, which is the Beatitudes and graces that Lord God constantly supports us in our aspiration to do good. This year – the Year of St Paul – our help will also be the clear and convincing teaching of the Apostle to the Nations. In 1 Corinthians 15 he teaches, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back? You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body... It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonourable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one... But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual... the word that is written shall come about: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ (verses 35-38). The victory of life over death is the real message of today’s celebration.
May All Saints’ Day and the Feast of All Souls, which the Church – our loving Mother – preserves, remind us of this not so distant perspective and perhaps these feasts make us change our attitudes towards life.