A reflection on the Christian view of death
When was the last time you meditated on Heaven? When was the last time you heard a sermon on Heaven? I understand that we all have a natural fear and aversion to dying. But for a Christian, there should be a deepening thirst for God that begins to erode the fear and aversion to death. St. Francis praised God for Sister bodily death which no one can escape (Canticum Fratris Solis). And why not praise God for it? It is what ultimately brings us home.
As for me, I will say it: I long to leave this world one day and go home and be with God. I am not suicidal and I love what I do here. But I can’t wait to be with God. I don’t mind getting older because it means I’m closer to home. Another day’s journey and I’m so glad because I’m one day closer to home! In our youth-centered culture, people (especially women) are encouraged to be anxious about getting older. As for me, when I hit forty, I said, “Hallelujah, I’m halfway home (err … as far as I know)!” Now at 53, I rejoice even more. I’m glad to be getting older. God has made me wiser and He is preparing me to meet Him. I can’t wait!
Story: A couple of years ago a woman here in the parish walked into a meeting a few minutes late. It was obvious that she had been rushing to get there, and she entered quite out-of-breath. No sooner had she entered, than she fell headlong on the ground. She had died instantly of a heart attack. She was dead before she hit the ground. We rushed to revive her, but to no avail. God had called Wynette unto Himself. I remember saying at her funeral, “For us it was one of the worst days of our life, but for Wynette it was the greatest day of her life.” God, for whom she longed, had drawn her to Himself. She had died hurrying to God’s house and you know I just had to quote the old spiritual that says, O Lord, I done what you told me to do … unto that morning when the Lord said, “Hurry!”
Even a necessary stopover in Purgatory cannot eclipse the joy of the day we die. There will surely be the suffering that precedes our death. But deep in our heart, if we are a believer, must ring forth the word, “Soon!” An old spiritual says, “Soon I will be done with the troubles of this world, going home to live with God.”
So I ask you again, do you long for heaven? Do you long to depart this world and be with God? You say, “Yes, but first let me raise my kids!” I know, but do you rejoice as the years tick by and the goal becomes closer? Do you long to be with God?
I close with the words of Psalm 27:
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, a vibrant parish community in Washington, DC. A native of Chicago with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, his interest in the priesthood stemmed from his experience as a church organist, cantor and choir director during college. He attended Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary and holds Masters degrees in Divinity and in Moral Theology. He was ordained in 1989 and named a Monsignor in 2005. He has conducted a weekly Bible Study in Congress and in the White House, for two and four years, respectively.
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