What happens when a person dies? We have many consoling images and beautiful stories that shield us from the reality of death. But what is that reality. Beliefs and views vary. Many modern-day humanists believe and proclaim that we cease to exist at the moment of death. Nothing remains but our memory of our dead and perhaps some inspiration drawn from their lives. Many Jewish groups believed this in Jesus’ day. Many world religions believe that the spirit is set free from the body to live on in some way.
Our church teaches that our bodies are a vital part of what we are. The body and soul become separated at death to await resurrection where they will be reunited and raised up to live eternally in an altogether new creation. For each individual, how they lived in this life, their goodness and their prayer together with God’s mercy will have an impact on the life to come. Of course, at this point we are talking mystery.
Many people ridicule the idea of resurrection. They think in terms of the resurrection being merely a resuscitation, a mere return to bodily life as we experienced it on earth. But that’s not Catholic doctrine. As Jesus points out, our risen bodies, like his risen body, will be different than they are now. Our bodies now are mortal, vulnerable and fragile, liable to aging, illness, accidents and death. In the resurrection, we will be like the angels. Our bodies will no longer be mortal or vulnerable meaning that our own efforts at survival will no longer be necessary.
In eternal life, we believe that we will be an altogether new creation. Our lives and the lives of all people will be perfected beyond our wildest dreams in the communion of saints. God makes all things new as the Scriptures tell us. Suffering, sin, pain and death will be no more. God will be all in all. When we die, we do not cease to exist but we awake to the immortality of our souls and to the resurrection of the body and to eternal life in the world to come.
Where there is soul there is beauty; where there is soul there is love
Where there is soul there is life; where there is soul there is hope.
(From Ennis Parish Newsletter) Adapted.