The life of Christians extends beyond death - Catholic Courier

The life of Christians extends beyond death

The book A New Catechism: Catholic Faith for Adults, also known as the Dutch Catechism, tells the story of Christian missionaries who visited a pagan king. They preached a new religion that he was uncertain about accepting. He consulted his advisers and one of them told him the story of a bird that quickly flies into a hall during a cold winter night and just as quickly leaves.

"A person’s life is much the same. We are here for a short time. We don’t know what went before and we cannot see what will follow us. But if the new religion can speak with certainty of these questions, then it is well for us to follow it."

At the story’s conclusion the authors tell us: "They found the answer they sought in the message of Jesus."

What is this message? Jesus tells us: "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (Jn 11:25-26). Unlike the king in the story, we know we come from the creative hand of God and we are destined to return to God’s embrace when our time on earth ends.

Pope Francis addressed the Christian meaning of death in his Nov. 27 weekly audience. He said if we look at life’s painful moments, when we have lost a loved one, for example, "we realize that even amid the tragedy of loss, the conviction arises in the heart that everything cannot be over, that the good given and received has not been pointless. There is a powerful instinct within us that tells us that our lives do not end with death. This thirst for life found its true and reliable answer in the resurrection of Jesus."

If we are to die in Christ we must first live in him and then be raised up to dwell with him. To live one’s life in Christ means to allow the pattern of his life to become ours. This pattern comes into focus during Holy Week and Easter.

In Mark 10:33, Jesus told his disciples, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem."

Do we hear this as an invitation? Are we ready to go with him to the place of his death and resurrection? Can we see ourselves in his story and make it our story in faith?

A verse in a hymn often sung during Holy Week asks "were you there?" at the passion, death and resurrection. We can’t say we were there physically but we can say, "Yes, I’m present there now in faith as I try to walk the same journey as Jesus did."

We do not walk this road alone. Together with our sisters and brothers in the faith we unite our lives to Christ when we receive the sacraments, pray alone and with others, meditate on God’s word, and engage in the works of charity and justice, particularly for those with whom Jesus identifies.

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink … whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Mt 25:35, 40).

In his audience talk, Pope Francis said that we express our belief in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come in a special way by "caring for the bodily and spiritual wounds of our neighbor … sharing sorrow and infusing hope."

The Holy Father repeated three times, "The one who practices mercy does not fear death." Then he asked, "Why?"

"Because he looks death in the face in the wounds of his brothers and sisters, and he overcomes it with the love of Jesus Christ."

McCord is the former executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. He is currently a freelance writer and ministry consultant.


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