(Heaven Is Not So Far Away)
Peace be to you.
I believe there is a popular song entitled, “I’m In Heaven When I’m near you.” Now that, indeed, may be a kind of heaven, but it is not the kind of heaven, however, to which we aspire.
In order to understand heaven, though it is in eternity, we must never the less begin by talking about time.
Heaven is outside of time, yet we have to use time to get there.
It seems almost like a paradox.
Time: First of all, why must heaven be outside of time?
Simply because none of us would really want on this earth a kind of endless existence. If it were possible for us to live 400 years with some kind of new vitamin, do you think that we would all swallow them? There would certainly come one moment in our existence when we would want to die.
Have you ever been in any one place on this earth that you were absolutely sure would be one in which you want to spend every day of your life? It is not very likely. The mere extension of time to most of us would probably be a curse instead of a blessing.
Then, too, have you ever noticed that your happiest moments have come when eternity almost seemed to get inside of your soul?
All great inspirations certainly are rather timeless and that gives us some suggestion of heaven.
Mozart was once asked when he received his inspirations for his great music. He said he saw them all at once. There was a great heat, a great warmth, a great light, and then there came a succession of moments, or rather, a succession of notes.
So it is in writing a speech.When I prepare a talk, or a telecast or begin writing a book, there comes a moment when the end is seen at the beginning. One cannot write fast enough. Eternity is in the mind and time is at the end of the pen. Words do not come out fast enough. Lacordaire, the great French preacher, was once asked if he had completed his famous sermons to be given in the Cathedral of Notre Dame and he answered, “Yes, I have finished them. All that I have to do now is to write them.” And there comes to everybody, whether he’s good or bad, some dim intimations of immortality such as Wordsworth wrote about.
What will happen after death?
There are, however, so many men who try to immunize themselves from those thoughts of eternity. They put on a kind of a God-proof raincoat so that the drops of His grace will not get through to them. They shut out eternity. I wonder if anybody has ever described this better than T. S. Eliot entitled, “The Men Who Turn From God.” It is a poem about those who busy themselves with everything in time and never give a moment to the Stranger – the Stranger who has been knocking at the gate of their soul almost every day, the Stranger who made them uneasy in their sleep.
For at night there are dire dreams of immortality. But to get to the poem of T. S. Eliot:
The Men Who Turn From God
“Oh, weariness of men who turn from God
To the grandeur of your mind and the glory of your action,
To arts and inventions and daring enterprises,
To schemes of human greatness thoroughly discredited,
Binding the earth and water to your service,
Exploiting the seas and developing the mountains,
Dividing the stars into common and preferred,
Engaged in devising the perfect refrigerator,
Engaged in working out a rational morality,
Engaged in printing as many books as possible,
Plotting of happiness and flinging empty bottles,
Turning from your vacancy to fevered enthusiasm,
For nation or race, or what you call humanity.
Though you forget the way to the Temple,
There is One who remembers the way to your door.
Life you may evade, but death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger. (1)
The Stranger is the one who brings eternity into your soul.
Though we live in time and make much of it and think about time only, it is actually the one thing that makes happiness impossible. Simply because you live in time, you cannot combine your pleasures and your joys and your happinesses. You cannot make a club sandwich of pleasure. With the mere fact that you are in time, you cannot march with Napoleon and with Caesar. You cannot sit down to tea with Horace and Dante and Alexander Pope. Because you are in time, you cannot enjoy winter sports and the seashore simultaneously.
- Time demands that you take all of your pleasures successively, and time not only gives them to you, time also takes them away.
And thus, if you examine your own psychological intuitions and experiences, you will discover that your happiest moments are those when you were never conscious of time at all. When you were in school or perhaps in your office, you look at the clock. You were not enjoying school, you were not enjoying your work.
Maybe you are attending a concert or enjoying a conversation with friends. Possibly you may be reading and you say, “Time passed like anything.” The less conscious you are of the passing of time, the more you enjoy yourself. There is a hint of what heaven must be.
- We must be outside of time where you can possess all joys at one and the same full moment. Well, that’s the condition of happiness, but though it’s outside of time, you have to use time in order to get to heaven.
Now we too often think of heaven as being “way out there”.
We draw all kinds of pictures about heaven, most of them are quite unreal, and because we think of heaven, and even hell, as something that happens to us at the end of time, we keep on postponing it.
- As a matter of fact, heaven is not way out there; heaven is in here.
- Hell is not way down there; hell could be inside of a soul.
There is no such thing as dying and then going to heaven or dying and going to hell.
You are in heaven already; or you are in hell already.
I’ve met people who are in hell; and I’m sure you have.
I remember once attending a man in a hospital. When I asked him to make his peace with God, he said, “I suppose you’re going to tell me I’m going to hell.” “No,” I said, “ I am not.” “Well,” he said, “I want to go to hell.” I said, “I have never met in my life a man who wanted to go to hell, so I think I will just sit here and watch you go.” I did not intend, of course, to let the time pass without doing something, but I was absolutely sure that, if he had a few minutes to himself, he might change his point of view. And so I sat alone with him for 20 minutes and I could see him going through a kind of soul struggle. And then he said to me, “Do you really believe there is a hell?” And I said, “Do you feel unhappy on the inside? Are you fearful? Is there dread? Anxiety? Are all the evil things of your life coming up before you as a specter, as a ghost?” Well, it was not long until he made his peace with God.
And so I’ve seen people with heaven in them. If you ever want to see heaven in a child, you look at that child the day of his first communion. If you want to see how much love is related to heaven, just look at a bride and groom at the altar on the day of their nuptial Mass. Heaven is there because love is there.
I have seen heaven in a missionary nun. Yes, a missionary nun who was spending herself and being spent among the lepers. Sometimes you see a virtuous young person and you see heaven. The beauty of such a person is not put on the outside. It is a kind of an imprisoned loveliness that comes from within, as if it were breaking down the bars of flesh in order to find some outward utterance.
- So, heaven is here, just as hell can be, in the soul of some.
Now, as a matter of fact, heaven is very close to us because heaven is related to a good life in somewhat the same way that an acorn is related to an oak. An acorn is bound to become an oak. He who does not have heaven in his heart now will never go to heaven; and he who has hell in his heart when he dies, will go to hell. We must not think that heaven is related to a good life in somewhat the same way that the gold medal is related to study, because a gold medal need not follow study. It is purely extrinsic to study.
- Further, heaven is related to a good and virtuous life in just exactly the same way that knowledge is related to study. One necessarily follows the other.
- And hell is not related to an evil life in the same way that spanking is related to an act of disobedience because spanking need not follow an act of disobedience.
As a matter of fact, it rarely follows disobedience today, but perhaps there are some people listening to me who may have to ask their grandparents what spanking is. Well I will tell you what it is. Spanking is a pat on the back which develops character, provided it is given often enough, hard enough and low enough.
So hell is not related to an evil life, therefore, as spanking to an act of disobedience, but rather in the same way that corruption is related to death. One necessarily follows the other. Therefore, heaven is not just a long way off and we are not to postpone it. It’s here. That is to say, it begins here. Hence, those people who deny hell by saying, “Well, I believe we have hell in this life”, are quite right. It starts here but it doesn’t end here.
Heaven starts here but it doesn’t end here.
We just get faint glimpses of it now and then. But if we postpone the thought of heaven until the moment we die, we will be very much like the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert. The poor Jews were, at one time, within about 11 days of the Promised Land. It took only three weeks for them to make the journey from Egypt to the promised land, but because of their disobediences, their failures, their backsliding, their rebellions against Moses, it took them about 40 years to get into the promised land, and that 40 years represents a pilgrimage in the life of most of us. We make progress, and then we slip back.
Thank heavens we have a Merciful Lord who puts up with us and forgives us 70 times 7. And therefore, time is necessary in order to gain heaven, but the lapse of time itself does not bring me to heaven.
What brings me to heaven is how I live and how I die.
And we are not to think, either, that just one particular act is the sole determinant. We are determined by the habits of our life. For example, a great pianist may sit down at the piano and strike a wrong note, but you will say, “Oh, well, he has a the habit of being a very good piano player.” If I sat down at a piano to play, I might hit a right note, but you would say, “He can’t play.” I remember once hearing a comedian sit down at a piano and talk to a famous artist, and he said to him, striking one note, “If you know so much about music, tell me, from what opera is that note?” Well, that’s the way my playing would be. I would not have the habitus, I would not have the virtue, I would not have the goodness of artistry in my soul.
Now we come to what our Lord said about heaven.
Oh, He said many things about it, but there is one moment in His life that I think is very precious. It was the night of the Last Supper. Here our Blessed Lord gathered about Him all his apostles, poor, weak, frail men. He washed their feet, and He was facing death, the agony in the garden, and that terrible, betraying kiss of Judas, and even a denial of Peter himself. One would think that all of His thoughts would be on Himself. Certainly when we have trials, that is what we think about. Not our Blessed Lord. He thought about them. He saw the sadness in their faces, and He said, “Be not troubled. Do not be sad. I go to prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house, there are many mansions.” (Ref John 14:2)
- How did He know about the Father’s house? He came from there. That was His home. He was the kind of prodigal son who left the riches and happiness of the Father’s house to come to this earth and to waste the substance of His Life riotously on our salvation. Now preparing to go back home, He tells them about the Father’s house and He said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” (Ref John 14:2)
God never does anything for us without exceeding preparation.
- He made a garden for Adam, as only God knows how to make a garden beautiful.
- And then, when the Jews came into the Promised Land, He prepared the land for them. He said He would give them houses full of good things, houses which they never built. He said that He would give them vineyards and oils, which they never planted. (Ref Jos 24:13)
Preparing a Place:
So He goes to prepare a place for us. Prepare a place. Why? Simply because – well, we actually were not made for heaven; we were made for earth, and man, by sin, spoiled the earth. And God came down from heaven in order to help us remake this earth the best we could while we are in it. But then, after having redeemed us, he said that he would now give us heaven. So we got all this earth, and heaven too.
Love, Not Works!
Ah, do not say that we work to go to heaven because we are mercenary. A man loves a woman; he asks for her hand; is it because he is mercenary? I love poetry; there is no money in it. I love tennis; I play tennis twice a week. Do I do it because it’s mercenary? I do it simply because I love it.
Now something that we must remember about heaven, too, is that heaven is social.
It is a fellowship. In some places heaven is called a country to indicate its Vastness. It’s called a city, to suggest the number of its inhabitants. It is called a Kingdom, to suggest order and harmony. It’s called a Paradise, in order to tell of its Delights. And it’s called the Father’s house, to indicate its eternity and its permanence of Love and Peace.
Body & Soul?
Now, in order to be perfectly happy after the end of the world, we will have to have our body with us, because our body has done a great deal for the salvation of our soul. There we will meet, in the fullness of the communion of saints, all of those who were our friends on earth. Husbands who have been grieved in time of the loss of a wife will find a wife. It’s hard to lose friends. After a time, two hearts grow together, and death is not just the separation of two hearts, it’s the tearing asunder of the one heart.
Cicero wrote a book in his latter days entitled, “An Essay on Old Age.” It was a poignant story of his heart at the loss of his daughter, Tulia. He said that after his death, on the way to the Elysian Fields, if he met someone who would ask him, “Do you want to go back to earth?”, he would say, “No, I don’t want to go back to earth, because I want to go ahead and converse with Plato and Socrates.”
And we have many, too, with whom we would like to converse. I would like to see Plato, Aristotle, Moses, Thomas Aquinas, the thief on the right.
I would like to see you, too. I would like to see you in particular because you have spent so much of your time in listening to me.
I cannot tell you what it is. I can only ask you to go back and just think of some great moment in life when you really enjoyed the thrill of living. And then go back and think of some great moment when somebody told you a truth, or you made a study of a great mystery and finally understood it. And then to go to another moment of your life when you had a great ecstasy of love, and you wanted it to go on and on and on. Now suppose you could take this moment of life, raise it up to a focal point where it became The Father. Take this truth; lift it to infinity until it became the moment of the Ecstasy of Truth, namely, the Son. And take that moment of love and eternalize it so that it became the Holy Spirit. Well, that would be some dim suggestion of what heaven is.
It’s Perfect Life, it’s Perfect Truth, it’s Perfect Love.
I’m not afraid of going to hell; I’m only afraid of losing Love, that’s all. That’s Divine Love, that’s Christ. The reason I want to go to heaven is because I want to be with Love. Oh, there will be surprises there, many of them. First of all, there will be many people there who we never expected to see there. And then there will also be a number of people absent whom we thought would be there. And finally there will be one great surprise, the greatest of all,
that you and I are there! I’ll see you in Heaven.
God love you.
1. In today’s lesson on – Heaven – what stood out the most to you?
2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “Heaven is not far away” to this lesson?
3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding on Heaven.
4. Now that you have learned more about – Heaven
what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?
1023. “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God forever, for they ‘see him as he is,’ face to face:[1Jn 3:2 ; cf. 1 Cor 13:12 ; Rev 22:4.] By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment – and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven – have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.[Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000; cf. LG 49.]”
1024. “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called ‘heaven.’ Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.”
1025. “To live in heaven is ‘to be with Christ.’ The elect live ‘in Christ,'[Phil 1:23 ; cf. Jn 14:3 ; 1 Thess 4:17.] but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.[Cf. Rev 2:17.] For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.[St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: PL 15, 1834A.]”
1026. “By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has ‘opened’ heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.”
1027. “This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: ‘no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.'[1 Cor 2:9 .]”
1028. “Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory ‘the beatific vision’: How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends.[St. Cyprian, Ep. 58, 10, 1: CSEL 3/2, 665.]”
1029. “In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him ‘they shall reign for ever and ever.'[Rev 22:5; cf. Mt 25:21, 23 .]”
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
II. “BODY AND SOUL BUT TRULY ONE”
362. “The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that ‘then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.'[Gen 2:7 .] Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.”
363. “In Sacred Scripture the term ‘soul’ often refers to human life or the entire human person.[Cf. Mt 16:25-26 ; Jn 15:13 ; Acts 2:41 .] But ‘soul’ also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,[Cf. Mt 10:28 ; Mt 26:38 ; Jn 12:27 ; 2 Macc 6 30 .] that by which he is most especially in God’s image: ‘soul’ signifies the spiritual principle in man.”
364. “The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:[Cf. 1 Cor 6:19-20 ; 1 Cor 15:44-45 .]
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”
365. “The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body:[Cf. Council of Vienne (1312): DS 902.] i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.”
366. “The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.[Cf. Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, CPC # 8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440.]”
ARTICLE 11 – “I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY”
988. “The Christian Creed – the profession of our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in God’s creative, saving, and sanctifying action – culminates in the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead on the last day and in life everlasting. ”
989. “We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.[Cf. Jn 6:39-40 .] Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.[Rom 8:11 ; cf. 1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14 ; 2 Cor 4:14 ; Phil 3:10-11 .] ”
990. “The term ‘flesh’ refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.[Cf. Gen 6:3 ; Ps 56:5 ; Isa 40:6 .] The ‘resurrection of the flesh’ (the literal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our ‘mortal body’ will come to life again.[Rom 8:11 .]”
991. “Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings. ‘The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live.'[Tertullian, De res, 1,1: PL 2, 841.]
How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.[1 Cor 15:12-14 .]”
I. CHRIST’S RESURRECTION AND OURS
The progressive revelation of the Resurrection
992. “God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed. In their trials, the Maccabean martyrs confessed: The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.[2 Macc 7:9 .] One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.[2 Macc 7:14 ; cf. 2 Macc 7:29 ; Dan 12:1-13 .] ”
993. “The Pharisees and many of the Lord’s contemporaries hoped for the resurrection. Jesus teaches it firmly. To the Sadducees who deny it he answers, ‘Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?'[Mk 12:24 ; cf. In 11:24; Acts 23:6 .] Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who ‘is not God of the dead, but of the living.'[Mk 12:27 .]”
994. “But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: ‘I am the Resurrection and the life.'[Jn 11:25 .] It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.[Cf. Jn 5:24-25 ; Jn 6:40, 54 .] Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life,[Cf. Mk 5:21-42 ; Lk 7:11-17 ; Jn 11 .] announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the ‘sign of Jonah,'[Mt 12:39 .] the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.[Cf. Mk 10:34 ; Jn 2:19-22 .]”
995. “To be a witness to Christ is to be a ‘witness to his Resurrection,’ to ‘(have eaten and drunk) with him after he rose from the dead.'[Acts 1:22 ; Acts 10:41 ; cf. Acts 4:33 .] Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.”
996. “From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition.[Cf. Acts 17:32 ; 1 Cor 15:12-13 .] ‘On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.'[St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 88, 5: PL 37, 1134.] It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life?”
How do the dead rise?
997. “What is ‘rising’? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.”
998. “Who will rise? All the dead will rise, ‘those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.'[Jn 5:29 ; cf. Dan 12:2 .]”
999. “How? Christ is raised with his own body: ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself’;[Lk 24:39 .] but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, ‘all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,’ but Christ ‘will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,’ into a ‘spiritual body’:[Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 801; Phil 3:21; 2 Cor 15:44.]
But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel ….What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable…. The dead will be raised imperishable…. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.[1 Cor 15:35-37, 42, 52, 53 .]”
1000. “This ‘how’ exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ’s transfiguration of our bodies:
Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.[St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 18, 4-5: PG 7/1, 1028-1029.]”
1001. “When? Definitively ‘at the last day,’ ‘at the end of the world.'[Jn 6: 39-40, 44, 54 ; Jn 11:24 ; LG 48 # 3.] Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.[1 Thess 4:16.]”
Risen with Christ
1002. “Christ will raise us up ‘on the last day’; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ:
And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead …. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.[Col 2:12 ; Col 3:1 .]”
1003. “United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains ‘hidden with Christ in God.'[Col 3:3 ; cf. Phil 3:20 .] The Father has already ‘raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.'[Eph 2:6 .] Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we ‘also will appear with him in glory.'[Col 3:4 .]”
1004. “In expectation of that day, the believer’s body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering:
The body (is meant) for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …. You are not your own; …. So glorify God in your body.[1 Cor 6:13-15, 19-20 .]
II. DYING IN CHRIST JESUS
1005. “To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must ‘be away from the body and at home with the Lord.'[2 cor 5:8.] In that ‘departure’ which is death the soul is separated from the body.[Cf. Phil 1:23 .] It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.[Cf. Paul VI, CPG # 28.]”
1006. “‘It is in regard to death that man’s condition is most shrouded in doubt.'[GS 18.] In a sense bodily death is natural, but for faith it is in fact ‘the wages of sin.'[Rom 6:23 ; cf. Gen 2:17 .] For those who die in Christ’s grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection.[Cf. Rom 6:3-9 ; Phil 3:10-11 .]”
1007. “Death is the end of earthly life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment:
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, . . . before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.[Eccl 12:1, 7 .] ”
1008. “Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin.[Cf. Gen 2:17 ; Gen 3:3 ; Gen 3:19 ; Wis 1:13 ; Rom 5:12 ; Rom 6:23 ; DS 1511.] Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.[Cf. Wis 2:23-24 .] ‘Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned’ is thus ‘the last enemy’ of man left to be conquered.[GS 18 # 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:26 .]”
1009. “Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will.[Cf. Mk 14:33-34 ; Heb 5:7-8 .] The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.[Cf. Rom 5:19-21 .] ”
The meaning of Christian death
1010. “Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.'[Phil 1:21 .] ‘The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.[2 Tim 2:11 .] What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already ‘died with Christ’ sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this ‘dying with Christ’ and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act:
It is better for me to die in (eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek – who died for us. Him it is I desire – who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth …. Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.[St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 217-220.]”
1011. “In death, God calls man to himself. Therefore the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul’s: ‘My desire is to depart and be with Christ. ‘[Phil 1:23 .] He can transform his own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father, after the example of Christ:[Cf. Lk 23:46 .]
My earthly desire has been crucified; . . . there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father.[St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1- 2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 223-224.]
I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.[St. Teresa of Avila, Life, chap. 1.]
I am not dying; I am entering life.[St. Therese of Lisieux, The Last Conversations.]”
1012. “The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church:[Cf. 1 Thess 4:13-14.]
Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.[Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.]”