|And life after death?
The only person able to speak about life after death is the one who has experienced death. Recent books or films rely on the experiences of people who, in fact, did not die. These witnesses do not tell us anything more than to point out a particular area of human consciousness in certain limited situations (coma, apparent death, etc.) Most people come out of this kind of experience with the desire to change their lives.
Jesus died and according to the testimony of his disciples, he rose from the dead. In the Gospel of St. John, he affirms: «he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.» (John 11:25-26)
The fact that we will rise as Jesus did is therefore an object of faith. Our confession of faith, (the "I believe in one God") speaks about the resurrection of the dead. This means that after death, we continue to live just as we are: with our history, our personality and also with our body. The latter is a new creation but it is really our body. Saint Paul makes a comparison with a plant that grows from a seed: it is the same plant, but completely new. At baptism, the "spiritualization" of our body began. What exists now will not be destroyed or replaced, but purified, transformed and resurrected.
To evoke Heaven, the Bible gives the most intense images of happiness that we have: participating in the banquet of the Kingdom, dwelling in light, peace and joy. Eternal life consists of an eternal relation of love with God who loves us in an extraordinary way and forever! Every person is called to this joy; only someone who deliberately turns away from God, excludes himself by his own refusal.
This new life is not only after death. It is accessible even now. Through Jesus, the Kingdom is in our midst.
One year ago, I celebrated my eightieth Birthday in a remarkable way. Things are different now. A series of physical sufferings indicated a decline, increasing fragility and that death, my death, was approaching. Was I afraid to see it come? Yes, at that moment,
when I asked myself the question: «What sort of death will I have to endure? Am I ready to accept my death, in whatever way it comes?»
But this thought came back to me: «Turn towards Mary, she will be your chosen companion; both now and at the hour of death.»
I am able to banish the fear of death because I an sure of the loving presence of God all the days of my life. God has really kept watch over me and has given me signs.
One phrase of Scripture that helps me a lot at this moment is: «Let us make man in our image» (Gen. 1:26). God wants to let me enter into the communion of love that exists between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. He wants to give me, poor little woman, a share in it as well! Heaven is nothing less than this. So I see death as a necessary passage that will lead me into a stage of purification to which I aspire in order to enter the Kingdom. This is just a last stage which God gives to prepare me to be detached little by little from all that hinders my walk towards Him.