Today in our parish we’re beginning what we hope will turn out to be an annual custom: an opportunity for us to remember with prayer and thanksgiving those of our friends and family who have died in the past year or two. In our congregation we have experienced several deaths this year, and some of us have also lost friends and relatives outside this little Christian community of ours. In fact, there can be very few of us who have not been touched, at one time or another, by the reality of death. And young or old, there can be very few of us who have not wondered what that reality means.
So what’s going to happen to me after I die? This is one of the questions human beings have pondered throughout history. We go through life, we work hard to achieve something, we find someone to love and if we’re fortunate we build a family and experience good and positive and lasting relationships. But what does it all mean if it all ends in death? What’s the point of learning, if my brain’s just going to go demented and then die out? What’s the point of love, if sooner or later you’re going to lose the one you love? Is it really possible that all these years of laughing and working, eating and sleeping, learning and loving are going to end up in nothing more than the decay of my body in the grave?
Human beings have always pondered that question, and throughout our history we’ve continuously speculated about what happens to us after we die. Some, believing that the person continues to live in some sense after death, have left tools and articles of clothing in the grave to help the dead person in the next life. Some people have tried to contact the dead, and others believe that the dead have contacted them. Some people have been afraid of what comes after death and have paid money for masses to be said for the safety of their souls. Some have believed that when we die we go to a better place. Others have been skeptical: we just die, and that’s the end of that.
The Christian faith is firmly on record as teaching that there is life after death. In the Nicene Creed, which goes back in its earliest form to the fourth century A.D., we say, ‘We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come’. What does this mean? What do we actually believe about life after death?
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