What will it be like when we close our eyes for the last time on this earth? What will we see? There have been some who have had “near death experiences” and returned to give us some clues…. a bright light, a feeling of peace, meeting loved ones….. well those may be real clues, but we don’t know for sure. The scripture does tell us that “ no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” (1Cor. 2:9)
The church says the first thing we will experience at death is our “particular judgement”. “Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. …. each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven (through a purification or immediately), or immediate and everlasting damnation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1021-1022)
So, the church tells us that we will know immediately where we are going to spend eternity… heaven or hell. I don’t care what fantastic experiences we have had on this earth, …. going to the moon, climbing Mount Everest, winning the Super Bowl…everything pales in light of this moment.
It’s really worth preparing for this moment. It makes sense to study and pray and think about this moment. Some say “I don’t know what happens at death, I’m not that worried about it though; I tried to live a pretty good life, I didn’t murder anyone, I gave $20 to charity once…..” Well, if the consequences of this life were insignificant, then that’s not a bad approach….. but, if heaven and hell are at stake, then that’s really not a good approach.
Most of us buy insurance (health, car, house, 401k) to protect us from an uncertain future on this earth… a future of a relative few years. Isn’t it wise to look at the uncertainty of “life after death” and consider taking out some “insurance”. In Christ, we can find security… not just security, but happiness and love – now and forever. Christ offers us mercy and forgiveness of our sins. He offers us heaven. We don’t have to be afraid of death if we have placed our life in the hands of the Lord. He will be there at the moment of death. He has conquered death and won for us a rich inheritance.
A famous monk was asked if he was afraid of the last judgement. He said, “yes I am …. but I would not trade my judge for anything in the world.” So, if we know the judge…if the judge is our friend… then we don’t have to be afraid of death. Our judge, the Lord Jesus Christ, is our dearest friend and he will be there at the judgement and our deepest hope is that we will hear these words from him, “well done good and faithful servant….. enter into the joy of your master. (Mt. 35:23)
All of our life should be directed toward being ready for that last moment. We don’t need to be afraid if we have placed our hope and trust in the Lord. And that is very good news.