Our faith influences how we approach both life and death

      During this month of November, the Church encourages us to reflect upon the mystery of death, to pray for our beloved faithful departed, and to make appropriate preparations for our own death.

      Our faith not only influences how we choose to live our life, but also how we view death, our own and others. We believe that God loves us so much that the Father sent His only begotten Son to be our Savior. Jesus conquered sin and death for us through His own suffering, death, and resurrection.

      Through Baptism, sins are forgiven and we become members of Jesus’ living Body, the Church. Even now we live with Christ’s life and in His love. The Preface for the funeral Mass expresses our belief that in death “life is changed not ended.”

      St. Paul expresses the very positive meaning of Christian death:  “For me life is Christ, and death is gain.”

      St. Teresa of Avila expressed our belief this way:  “I want to see God and, in order to see Him, I must die.”

      St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, spoke of her death:  “I am not dying; I am entering life.”

      We truly believe that at the time of death, we shall all appear before Christ, our Savior and Judge, and those who die with an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God will reign with Christ forever in glory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses our faith in this way:  “We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives forever, so after death the righteous will live forever with the risen Christ and He will raise them up on the last day.”

      Our belief in the resurrection of the dead accounts for our ancient practice of praying for those who have died. We offer prayers, especially Holy Mass, almsgiving, and good works asking God to grant cleansing and purification to those who have died with lesser sins that they might achieve the holiness necessary to enter into the eternal joy of heaven.

      We prepare for our own eternal with the Lord by living now in with Jesus, by growing in our loving relationship with Him through our regular participation at Mass, reception of the Sacraments, and personal daily prayer.

      We also grow in relationship with the Lord by extending acts of love toward others, especially the poor and needy. “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me” (Mt 25:40).

      November is an appropriate time to review and update our wills and the preparations we have made for our funeral Mass and burial. Tending to these matters in a calm and serene way now is an expression of charity towards our dear survivors.

      Catholic funerals are anything but morbid. They express our respect for the dignity of the body and our firm belief in the resurrection. Our funerals also offer deep comfort to the family and friends of the deceased. The wake, vigil, funeral Mass in church, and burial in a Catholic cemetery witness to our deep faith and hope in the life to come. They express our genuine hope that one day we will be reunited in glory with each other.

      As we ponder our own death and pray for our beloved faithful departed, we might bring to mind the words of the late Cardinal Bernardin when he announced his approaching death:  “We can look at death in two ways, as an enemy or as a friend. As a person of faith, I see death as a friend.”

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