Ministry to the Bereaved
Part 3 Theological Issues

Chapter f32 What Happens After Death?

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

What Happens to Us after We Die?

The Particular Judgment

 

Heaven

Purgatory

Limbo

Hell

The General Judgment

The Second Coming

Immortality of the Soul

The Resurrection of Jesus

To Think About

"The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself."
(Irenaeus of Lyons) 

Preliminary Questions

How would you answer the question:  "What happens to us after we die?"  How you answer this question is influenced by your image of God (just judge, loving parent, immutable supreme being, etc.).   It is also influenced by your image of Jesus.  And the way you answer the question "what happens to us after we die" will play a major role in the way that you minister to the dying and the bereaved,

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Bibliography

See the bibliography given in Chapter f17 General Bibliography For Funerals and Ministry to the Bereaved

What happens after death? Various cultures, religions, historical periods, have offered answers to this question.  In my remarks which follow, I am heavily dependent upon:

1)  Kenan Osborne OFM. The Resurrection of Jesus: New Considerations for Its Theological Interpretation. Wipf & Stock Pub. (Sept, 2004), ISBN-13: 978-1592445875. (= Osborne)

2)  Bernard Brandon Scott. The Trouble with Resurrection. Polebridge Press (Nov. 2010), ISBN-13: 978-1598150209. (= Scott)

3)  Henry L. Novello. Death as Transformation. Ashgate (June, 2011) ISBN-13: 978-1409423492. (Henceforth = Novello)

Henry L. Novello, an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Theology at The Flinders University of South Australia, has written an impressive speculative study that formulates a theology of death which hinges on the key principle that not only life, but also death in a special and privileged way -- where new life emerges from the abyss of death -- is the locus for entering into a new relationship with God through Christ the Savior in the Spirit. His main argument is that this final union with God, where we are created anew in the Spirit, comes through the transformative event of death where we are drawn up into the admirable exchange of natures in Christ." (from a review of the book)

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What Happens to Us after We Die?

Is there life after death? "Belief in life after death was well-established among Israel's neighbors, but for the longest time Israel remained adamant in its denial of life after death." (Scott, p 15) For Israel's neighbors the dead became spirits and somehow became gods. In order to safeguard their belief that there was but one God, ancient Israel denied firmly that there was any type of life after death. The dead simply went down into the grave -- or simply went to Sheol. [Sheol is not life after death, or a place, in the Christian sense. "Sheol can be used interchangeably with death itself."] (Scott page 17)

This belief changed abruptly in the years following 175 BCE -- as seen in the books of Daniel and Maccabees. "The martyrdom of pious Jews for their very piety [during the time of the persecution of by Antiochus Epiphanes] put a stress on [Israel's] belief structure making it difficult to maintain. If God was true, living and life-giving, how could these pious ones be murdered for following God's Torah without vindication? This creates a stress that leads to the unthinkable: that Yahweh is not a God who can keep God's part of the covenant. In the past, the problem had always been with Israel keeping the covenant. This situation created the opposite problem. Maybe God could not keep God's side of the covenant. But this is an unsupportable conclusion, so some way out of this problem must exist. ... Daniel proposed in a vision a way out: God would raise up those dead martyrs and vindicate them. Both Daniel's writing and his solution were innovative." (Scott, p 32, see Daniel 12:1-4)

This explains the thinking Paul, who was a good Jew, in his first letter to the Thessalonians: "you should not mourn as do those without hope. God will bring with Jesus all those belonging to him who have fallen asleep." (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Contrary to what many Catholics presume, Paul had not read the resurrection account in the gospel of John or, even more importantly, Paul had not viewed the Renaissance paintings of Thomas putting his hand in the side of the risen Lord or viewed the many renditions of the "Noli me tangere" [the risen Lord telling Mary Magdalene "don't touch me."] Which formed the basis of most Catholics' understanding of the resurrection.  [Recall: Why couldn't all the kings horses and all the king's men put Humpty Dumpty together again]

As Catholics, we were taught: "Our souls will live forever in the kingdom of heaven." The Greeks believed in "body and soul"– the soul was the divine part of the human being, and as divine, it goes on forever. The body simply rots in the grave. St. Paul rejects this idea completely. The human person is a composite unity: it is the person who lives after death, not the soul. The Greek idea [body/soul] radically changes the meaning of the resurrection of Christ. Rather than the model of our resurrection, it becomes simply a proof that Jesus was God.

What happens after death?  Novello lists 4 possibilities

Note: it is important to try to determine which of these is embedded in your theological "bottom of the iceberg" because these presuppositions and attitudes will influence the way you minister to the dying. ["We do not tend to give much thought to the effect which our attitudes and beliefs about death have on people who are dying." (Novello to 25)]

1) "Firstly, if it is held that one's future life is dependent upon making a final decision before one dies, then this view may lead to pressuring and frightening dying persons into making a deathbed decision upon which their salvation depends." (Novello to 26)  Most of us have been taught that one must die in a state of grace [grace here = a state / thing] to avoid eternal damnation.  "It is difficult to imagine how such attitudes and beliefs can alleviate the anxiety of the dying, help them accept imminent death with equanimity, and lead them to the assurance that their suffering has meaning because it is enveloped by God's love in Christ who is in solidarity with the dying and the dead, and who has identified with the concrete human condition. In the final analysis, it seems that the dying are being pressured into entering into some form of bargaining with God in order to reduce their risk of eternal damnation in hell, rather than being assisted to realize that they are already embraced by Christ's outstretched arms on the cross of Calvary." (Novello 226)

2) "Secondly, the view that personal existence does not continue beyond death. Christian hope is associated with Christ's judgment of the world on the "last day" when there will be a general resurrection of the dead. This view can be helpful if one understands that Christ's coming on the last day will be a blessing which befalls humanity .... The dead will share in Christ's glorious resurrection in the establishment of a new heaven and a new earth. ... What is paramount is God's sovereign freedom communicated in the Christ-event not human freedom so that attending to the dying becomes a special ministry for entering more deeply into the mystery of Christ and radicalizing Christian hope in the promise of a new life out of the midst of death." (Novello 226)

However, one wonders how consoling to those who mourn is this understanding that the dead have simply entered a void that will only be filled by Christ's glorious coming at the end of time.

3) "Thirdly, if death is conceived as entry into a time of fellowship with Christ in which the negative realities of each human lifetime are transfigured, healed and rectified as a necessary process for entering into eternal life [i.e. purgatory], then this view is certainly more hopeful and helpful than the previous ones in so far as all aspects of the persons life are seen as assumed by the Christ-event in order that all may attain to eternal life as their final, gratuitous end. The dying, then, need not be anxious about their final destiny before God, trusting that God's merciful love in Christ will triumph over all human sins, all unrealized human possibilities and all debilitating illnesses."

"A possible weakness in this view, however, is that the purgatorial process of being with Christ is envisioned as ongoing until the Parousia of Christ so that the indefinite delay of the gift of eternal life until the last day could undermined a sense of true joy for the deceased who die into Christ." (Novello 227)

Hell:   "When we are assured that hell is a fact, and that therefore it is populated, the result is that we tend to fill hell according to our taste and place ourselves on the side of those saved from the torments of hell." (Novello 222)

4) "Finally, if we hold to the view that the dying are approaching the moment of sharing fully in the Paschal mystery of Christ and passing from death to the glory of the risen life, then this view is even more hopeful than the previous one and it leads to an even greater acceptance of death as the moment for definitive encounter with Christ who is the mediator between humanity and divinity.... The fullness of divinity, as Paul says, dwells bodily in the man Jesus Christ; since our human essence is conjoined with the divine essence in the person of Jesus Christ, the ministering to the dying is to be seen as a privileged locus for entry into the mystery of God as our beyond, as the true center and absolute future of this world." (Novello 227)

"The belief in resurrection at death, moreover, not only confers inviolable meaning and worth to the life-time of the deceased, but also brings great consolation to the morning and grieving because their loved ones are viewed as already sharing in Christ's victory over death and enjoying the beatific vision of God in the risen life." (Novello 227)

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Implications for the funeral liturgy

"The rite for the burial of the dead should evidence more clearly the Paschal mystery of Christ." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 81)

"The renewed funeral rites are designed to highlight the Christian hope that baptism into the death of Christ means that the baptized are destined to pass with Christ from death to new life. While this has been a welcome renewal in the funeral liturgy, nonetheless liturgical practice in the Catholic Church still preserves many remnants that makes sense only from the earlier viewpoint of an immortal soul in the interim state [purgatory] that awaits the general resurrection of the dead at the end of time." (Novello 228) [That is, our funeral rites sometimes presume more #3 above rather than #4.]

"But if God in Christ is the One who is victorious over the powers of death in the world, for the sake of our salvation, it simply makes no sense to attempt to convince or placate a God who is perceived to be harsh in his judgment of sinners and demands satisfaction for sins committed. The funeral liturgy still gives the impression that the supplications of the assembled Christian community are required to assist the deceased in making satisfaction for sins and reducing punishment, as if the assembly's love for the deceased were greater than God's."  (Novello 228)

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The Particular Judgment

1.  Seeing Christ face to face  When I was studying graduate theology at Notre Dame, Professor Josef Goldbrunner (Holiness is Wholeness) asked us to consider what the consequences of that encounter might be.  Might that first loving glance inspire so great a loving response that the heart would be so filled with love that there would no room for any evil or imperfection.  He told the story of a man who had lead a terrible life and when he saw Christ face to face he was filled with love and conversion and cried out:  "So that's who you are!  If only I had seen you earlier!  I never saw you on earth; I only saw Christians."  

2  Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

1021  Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming [ i.e. the General Judgment; see below] but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith [i.e.the Particular Judgment].  The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul---a destiny which can be different for some and for others. 

Richstatter Commentary:   New Testament texts lead theologians to construct a "model" which can more consistently explain disparate data.

1022  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.

Richstatter Commentary:  Note how CCC 1021 speaks of "The General Judgment" and "The Particular Judgment."   The former is worked out from various scripture passages about the second coming and the parables, e.g. the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.  The Particular Judgment is worked out to explain what happens between the individual's death and the end of the world.  Of course, this presumes that while we here on earth are "in chronological time" those who have passed from chronos to the kairos where there is no past/present/future still have to do something while they are "waiting."   These theories also depend on the body/soul understanding of personhood.  Note that CCC1022 says that we enter into heaven or damnation -- and we enter into heaven either immediately or "through a purification" -- this is elaborated in the theory of purgatory.

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Heaven

1.  We believe that there is a heaven and that there are people there (Lex orandi:  e.g. Feast of the Ascension of the Lord).  We believe that there is a hell; but we have no liturgical evidence that anyone is there.

2.  Catechism of the Catholic Church

1023 Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face 

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," but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.

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."

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"

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."

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The Final Purification, or Purgatory

1.  Images:  While the definition of purgatory is in our conscious self (top part of the iceberg), the word brings various images to mind (below the iceberg) in our sub-conscious.  After we die we have no "body"; therefore, images of fire, etc. are not applicable.   Also once we pass through death, concepts of past, present, future are no longer applicable.  In eternity, there is no time.  Often in our imagination we think of purgatory of just like hell, only shorter.  [And if after death, the Blessed Virgin Mary went straight to heaven, some people go to Hell, and everybody else goes to purgatory--which is just like hell, only shorter--no wonder people are afraid to die!]

2.  Theology:  Faith and Good Works  Note that we are saved through the Pascal victory of Jesus.  Our understanding of purgatory must not cause us to think that we earn salvage.

Our  understanding of suffering and death might also be influenced by our understanding of what happens after death.  If after death people go to heaven, purgatory, or hell -- and if very few go directly to heaven, most good people go to purgatory -- and if purgatory is just like the sufferings of hell, only not as long -- this does not give a very "happy" prospect to dying!

3.  Biblical Issues Salvation in Christ does not "exempt us from the world."  We must be concerned with this life.  It is a form of pseudo-religion that is preoccupied with what happens after death. 

4.  Catechism of the Catholic Church - Purgatory

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name
Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607 

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611

5.  Praying for the dead (before, during, and after the funeral rites)

Why we pray for the dead depends, in large part, on purgatory. If one believes there is "purgatory" (as we were all taught--and as the CCC believes), then the reason we pray for the dead is because our prayers ask God lessen the pains / time of suffering.  If one does not believe there is a "purgatory" but that the person is joined with the resurrection of Christ, whose body we share by Baptism/Confirmation/Eucharist, (see:  Novello, Death as Transformation) then our prayers are for the living and are not for the dead but
with the dead. Just as the early Christians did not pray for the martyrs but to the martyrs.

6.  The notion of purgatory is dependent upon an understanding of the human person as being composed of body and soul.  It is only souls that are in purgatory, not bodies.  Once you abandon the body soul concept of the human person for a more unified understanding, purgatory has more difficulties.

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Limbo

International Theological Commission (May 27, 2007) The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized

Lawrence Landini. "Baptismal Practices in Catholic Hospitals: A Theological Reflection on Canons 752 and 750," The Jurist (1975) 296-309.

John H. McKenna, "Infant Baptism: Theological Reflections," Worship May 1996. 70:3, p 199.

W. H. Shannon, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church," America 168 (5 June 1993) 8-9. 

1.  Lex Orandi   Limbo is a way to tie up one of the "loose ends" brought about by the theory of Original Sin.  In 1972 during class at the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie, Dr. Professor P.-M. Gy, OP, [director of the institute and one of the principal authors of our current Order of Christian Funerals]  said that according to the principle Lex orandi the Church affirms that the "theory of limbo" is no longer necessary or useful.  Examine the theological presuppositions of the following prayers for infants who die before baptism.

O Lord, whose ways are beyond understanding,
listen to the prayers of your faithful people:
that those weighed down by grief
at the loss of this [little] child
may find reassurance in your infinite goodness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen. (OCF 282 C)

God of all consolation
searcher of mind and heart,
the faith of these parents [N. and N.] is known to you.
Comfort them with the knowledge
that the child for whom they grieve
is entrusted now to your loving care.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen. (OCF 282 D)

2.  Contemporary Theological Reflection  Even without the above argument (which I believe is conclusive in itself), scripture scholars and systematic theologians pointed out that 1) to believe that the Original Sin of Adam can come to the infant without any intervention on our part and 2) to believe that the Salvation of the Second Adam cannot come to the infant without human intervention (water and the formula of baptism) is to make the First Adam more powerful than the Second Adam -- which in effect puts the sting back into death

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man -- Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come -- and death came through sin ... But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many ... If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:12-19 passim)

"Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (I Cor 15:54-55)

"Vatican II has taught that even a person who has no explicit knowledge of Christ can somehow, aided by God's grace, ratify his condition as redeemed by the second Adam.  In the case of an infant which comes into this world tainted by the sin of Adam and redeemed by the obedience of Christ the situation is different.  But the child comes into the world oriented towards God as a supernatural destiny.  I cannot help but wonder why the objective salvation of Christ cannot gratuitously actualize the condition of redemption should the infant die without baptism.  I would hope that the condition of condemnation of the first Adam would not be dominant over the victory of the second Adam, thereby putting the sting back into the mystery of death."  (Dr. Lawrence Landini, O.F.M. "Baptismal Practices in Catholic Hospitals:  A theological Reflection on Canons 752 and 750,"  The Jurist,1975:2/3, pp 306-307.)

3.  Catechism of the Catholic Church   This understanding that limbo disappears with the publication of the Order of Christian Funerals is incorporated into the Catechism of the Catholic Church

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all  should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," (Mk 10:14; cf. 1 Tim 2:4) allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.   (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1261)  [Note that the word "Limbo" is completely unknown to the text of the CCC; the word is never used.]

4.  Reaction to the Papal Commission  International Theological Commission (May 27, 2007) The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized  the Papal Theological Commission arrived at the above understanding.   Shortly after this decision was published a former student brought to my attention a related article in the L.A. Times.

Some Catholics have criticized any effort to relegate limbo to oblivion. Removing the concept from church teaching would lessen baptism's importance and discourage the christening of infants, said Kenneth J. Wolfe, a Washington-based columnist for the traditionalist Catholic newspaper the Remnant. "It makes baptism a formality, a party, instead of a necessity," Wolfe said. "There would be no reason for infant baptisms. It would put the Catholic Church on par with the Protestants." It would also deprive Catholic leaders of a tool in their fight against abortion, he added. Priests have long told women that their aborted fetuses cannot go to heaven, which in theory was another argument against ending pregnancy. Without limbo, those fetuses presumably would no longer be denied communion with God.

Commentary:  "We baptize infants for what baptism gives; not merely for what it takes away" (Rev. Kurt Stasiak, O.S.B.).  Surely we do not invite parents to have their children baptized merely by threatening them with a vengeful God who condemns innocent infants to hell!  This is not only a deficient view of Baptism, but a very deficient view of God!   

Code of Canon Law:  The Code of Canon Law takes account of these developments:

Can. 1183  §1 As far as funeral rites are concerned, catechumens are to be reckoned among Christ's faithful.

Can. 1183  §2 Children whose parents had intended to have them baptized but who died before baptism, may be allowed Church funeral rites by the local Ordinary.

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Hell

1.  Lex Orandi   Note how we pray for the dead at the Eucharist:

Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon) "Remember, Lord, those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, especially those for whom we now pray, N. and N. May these, and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence light, happiness, and peace.

Eucharistic Prayer II  "Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; bring them and all the departed into the light of your presence."

Eucharistic Prayer III  "Welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sister, and all who have left this world in your friendship."

Eucharistic Prayer IV  "Remember those who have died in the peace of Christ and all the dead whose faith is known to you alone."

Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I [TRR:  There is no separate petition for the departed; they are included in the following prayer.]  "Help us to work together for the coming of your kingdom, until at last we stand in your presence to share the life of the saints, in the company of the Virgin Mary and the apostles, and of our departed brother and sisters whom we commend to your mercy."

Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II [TRR:  Again, no explicit prayer for the dead]  "In that new world where the fullness of your peace will be revealed, gather people of every race, language, and way of life to share in the one eternal banquet with Jesus Christ the Lord."

Eucharistic Prayer for Children I   [TRR:  In the three Eucharistic Prayers for Children the mention of the dead is very brief in prayers I and II and only implied in III. But note that in all three prayers we are praying for ALL those who have died.]   "... and we pray for those who have died."

Eucharistic Prayer for Children II "Remember those who have died. Bring them home to you to be with you for ever."

Eucharistic Prayer for Children III "Bring us all at last together with Mary, the Mother of God, and all the saints, to live with you and to be one with Christ in heaven."

Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions: I. The Church on the Way to Unity "Be mindful of our brothers and sisters [N. and N.] who have fallen asleep in the peace of Christ, and all the dead whose faith only you can know. Lead them to the fullness of the resurrection and gladden them with the light of your face."

Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions: II. God Guides the Church on the Way of Salvation  "Be mindful of our brothers and sisters [N. and N.] who have fallen asleep in the peace of Christ, and all the dead whose faith only you can know. Lead them to the fullness of the resurrection and gladden them with the light of your face."

Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions: Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions: III. Jesus, Way to the Father  "Be mindful of our brothers and sisters [N. and N.] who have fallen asleep in the peace of Christ, and all the dead whose faith only you can know. Lead them to the fullness of the resurrection and gladden them with the light of your face."

Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions: IV. Jesus, the Compassion of God  "Be mindful of our brothers and sisters [N. and N.] who have fallen asleep in the peace of Christ, and all the dead whose faith only you can know. Lead them to the fullness of the resurrection and gladden them with the light of your face." 
[TRR:  The prayer for the dead is the same in all four prayers because there is actually only one prayer, the Eucharistic Prayer for the Swiss Synod translated from French into English.  The prayer has variable prefaces and variable anamnesis.  The USCCB thought that priests in the USA would not be familiar with the structure of the Eucharistic Prayer and know how to insert these variable parts and so they instructed the publishers to print the prayer as four prayers with no variable parts.]

Eucharistic Prayer "A"  Lord of the living and the dead, awaken to the undying light of pardon and peace those fallen asleep in faith, especially (N. and ) those who have died alone, unloved, and unmourned.

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2.  Informal Survey  Years ago when I taught the core course on the Sacrament of Reconciliation I asked the participants to fill out an informal, anonymous survey.  The questions ask a variety of questions: if they celebrate the sacrament with the first form (individually) or with the second form (a community service with individual confession and absolution); if they have a spiritual director; is the spiritual director the same as their confessor; etc.  At the end of the survey there were two questions pertinent to this course (anointing and funerals).  Question 13 and 14 asked:

13.  A person who is conscious having committed grave sin is not to receive the Eucharist without prior sacramental confession. In your estimation how many grave sins does an average Catholic commit during an average lifetime?

0 --- 1 --- 2 --- 5 --- 25 --- 50 --- 100 --- 500 --- 1000 --- 3000 --- 5000 --- 5000+

14. At the end of time (e.g. after the "Last Judgment") what percent of the human race do you think will be will be in heaven and what percent in hell?

Heven25%50%75%90%95%100%
Hell 75%50%25%10%5%0%

I ask these questions knowing full well that no one knows the answer to either question.  And I explain that to the participants.  What I don't tell them before announcing the results of the survey is the relationship between these two questions and their "under the iceberg" configuration of their image of God. 

In the results posted below

Group A are the responses from several groups of transitional deacons who took the survey between 1997 and 2002.

Group B are the responses from a group of priests, deacons, men and women religious, and parish leaders of a large northern diocese during a workshop on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in 1999.

Group C are the responses from a group of priests, deacons, men and women religious, and parish leaders from several southern states during a workshop on the Sacrament of Reconciliation during 1999.

Group D are the responses in 2002 from lay parish leaders from one of the parishes listed by Paul Wilkes in his book Excellent Catholic Parishes

Group E are the responses from a group of parents of children preparing to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time in 2002 in a midsize parish in the Midwest. 

13. A person who is conscious having committed grave sin is not to receive the Eucharist without prior sacramental confession. In your estimation how many grave sins does an average Catholic commit during an average lifetime?

0 --- 1 --- 2 --- 5 --- 25 --- 50 --- 100 --- 500 --- 1000 --- 3000 --- 5000 --- 5000+

ResponseGroup AGroup BGroup C Group DGroup E
017%20%38%30%48%
111%11%12%20%20%
28%15%21%20%8%
514%30%21%10%15%
2513%9%6%0%6%
508%6%0%20%3%
1006%6%0%0%0%
50010%1%2%0%0%
10008%0%0%0%0%
30003%1%0%0%0%
50000%0%0%0%0%
5000 +2%1%0%0%0%

Comment:  I find it interesting that students who have had nearly identical intellectual and spiritual formation over the course of a number of years can have such a range of opinions on this issue.  It is also interesting that seminarians seem more ready to see sin than do the laity.  Is this because the laity have lost the sense of sin?  Or is it because, as parents themselves, they have deeper understanding of the parental love of God?

14. At the end of time (e.g. after the "Last Judgment") what percent of the human race do you think will be will be in heaven and what percent in hell?

Heven25%50%75%90%95%100%
Hell 75%50%25%10%5%0%
ResponseGroup AGroup BGroup C Group DGroup E
25% - 75%2%0%0%0%6%
50% - 50%2%7%3%0%17%
75% - 25%17%3%9%0%17%
90% - 10%10%19%9%0%17%
95% - 5%19%51%27%17%31%
100% - 0%50%20%52%83%12%

Comment:  The way one answers this question depends primarily on one's image of God. 

3.  Catechism of the Catholic Church - Hell

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna," of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"616

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a
call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."618 

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":621 

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Capital Punishment

2266  The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.67

2267  Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm--without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself--the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."  [Ft nt. 68.  John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]

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The General Judgment

xx

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The Second Coming

 

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Immortality of the Soul

Modern-day Christians are often surprised to find out that the immortality of the soul is missing from the New Testament and even more surprised to find out that a beatific life after death is by and large missing from the Hebrew Bible. The Bible never imaginatively draws a picture of life in heaven. Most of that comes from Dante or Bunyan. Neither does the New Testament contain a clear belief in the immorality of the soul. That becomes firmly established only during the Neoplatonic revolution of the third and fourth century. In the fifth century Augustine represents the consensus when he defines "a human being, as seen by a human being, is a rational soul using a mortal and earthly body" (De moribus ecclesiae catholicae 1.27.52). The resurrection of the dead is a distinctly Jewish idea, distasteful to the Greeks. Greeks anthropology  preferred a notion of the immortality of the soul, a notion rejected by Paul in his debate with his Corinthian converts. Early Christianity remained devoted to bodily resurrection, even to the point of Luke and the fourth gospel imagining it in an increasingly physical manner-- although not totally physical, since their image of the resurrected boy is capable of performing non-physical activities. 

While Greeks resist the raising of the body, even thinking it ridiculous, they have an apparent solution to the problem of the delay of the Parousia-- the immortal soul.

Judaism resisted the immoral soul because of the divine characteristics implied by immorality. "By nature immortal" is the definition of a God. It is a divine spark. This offends Jewish notions of monotheism. But this problem is solved by having God. create the soul and at death having the soul judged and consigned to heaven or hell. Christianity later added purgatory to solve the problem of those who should not go to heaven but also should not go to hell. This notion of the immortal soul as created by God at birth and judged at death has come to dominate Christianity to such a degree that saving souls is a common description of the Christian vocation.

There are several problems with the adoption of this model.

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While Greeks resist the raising of the body, even thinking that ridiculous, they have an apparent solution to the problem of the delay of the Parousia, namely, the immortal soul.

Judaism resisted the immortal soul because of the divine characteristics implied by immortality. "By nature immortal" is the definition of a God. It is a divine spark. This offends Jewish notions of monotheism. But this problem is solved by having God to create the soul and it death having the soul judged and consigned it to heaven or hell. Christianity later added purgatory to solve the problem of those who should not go to heaven but also showed not go to hell. This notion of the immortal soul is created by God and birth and judged and death has come to dominate Christianity to such a degree that saving souls is a common description of the Christian vocation.

There are several problems with the adoption of this model.

* Jesus' resurrection is divorced from ours.

Jesus's resurrection becomes the proof of his divinity and our resurrection is pushed off to the general resurrection at the end of time. It becomes an article of the creative with no real force. We die, our soul is judged, the soul goes to heaven or hell, and only on the last day I we raised up in the general resurrection, when our souls and bodies will be rejoined. In this model resurrection is actually relatively unimportant; the immortal soul is much more so. The Baltimore Catechism (1891) is typical in this regard.

Q. 133. What is man?

A. Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.

Q. 136. Is this likeness in the body or in the soul?

A. This likenesses chiefly in the soul.

Q. 137. How is the soul like to God?

A. The soul is like to God because it is a spirit that will never die, and has understanding and free will.

The second and third losses article related

* The body becomes evil

* The soul is good

The soul is what is saved. Creation becomes devalued, something to be raised up. Salvation is escape from this world to the heavenly abode where the soul naturally dwells. In this context marks accuses Christianity of being an opium of the people, and that the immortal soul teaches people to accept the oppression of this life in favor of the heavenly life to come.

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The Resurrection of Jesus

Resurrection is Corporate

Current belief in the resurrection tends to view it as personal, as something that happened to "me." This is often seen in the notion of Jesus as my personal Savior, and idea of the ancient world would have found ludicrous. In ancient Israel the notion of raising up was first connected to the people of Israel, and it always maintains a corporate sense. For Paul, Jesus' resurrection is the first fruits of the corporate resurrection of those who trust in God as he, Jesus, as trusted in God. Even Jesus' resurrection is not personal, but part of ours. The restoration of a corporate sense of resurrection enables us to expand the notion to creation itself, which is ultimately what resurrection is about. Resurrection is the completion of creation to the state in which God intends it. (Bernard Brandon Scott, Resurrection, p 229)

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To Think About

1.  Without faith, death is seen as "the end."  Faith tells us that death is not the end, but moving to a new stage of existence.  "Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended." (Preface, Christian Death I).  This transition requires that we "empty" ourselves so that we can be "filled" with this new existence.  "Christ emptied himself, becoming obedient unto death on a cross."   This "emptying" requires that we leave things behind.  What do we leave behind? resentments, prejudices, hatreds, grudges, vengeful memories.   Recall the story of the two monks:  "You are the one who has been carrying her these past five miles." 

2.  "Atheists have license to scoff at damnation, but to believe in God and not in hell is ultimately to disbelieve in the reality of human choices. If there's no possibility of saying no to paradise then none of our no's have any real meaning either. They're like home runs or strikeouts in a children's game where nobody's keeping score."

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 05/02/17.  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org