Headline: I Want To Live Forever

Posted on: 2014-11-17

The Comedy of Youthfulness

“Forever young, I wanna be forever young”, so crooned the pop singer, Sting, in one of his more popular tracks. Hardly can anyone oppose that! Who does not want to stay young? Youth has implications for freedom of movement thought and action which border sometimes even on license. Don’t we all sometimes dream of being as free as the birds? The huge success of the cosmetic industry is based on that human craving. Some people actually refer to them as “the vanity industry”, justifiably perhaps, because many people have really taken the craving for youthfulness and beauty to extraordinary levels. People purchase “spare parts” for parts of their body which they consider worn out or unsightly; nose, lips, cheeks, breasts, buttocks, hips and knees. All are now replaceable. This, of course, is necessary for medical interventions. The way things are going anyway the person who goes into the grave at death may be completely different from the one created by God. The truth of creation however is that all must die and everything that has a beginning must have an end (Gen 3;19).

Hope of the Resurrection

Those who wish to live forever need not lose hope however. There exists the guarantee of the resurrection from the dead by no less a person than Jesus of Nazareth who himself lived, died and rose form the dead. His resurrection is the fulcrum on which the faith of over a billion Christians in the world turns.  Even long before Christians appeared ion the scene the hope of seeing God face to face came from Prophet Job: “Oh that my words were written, or recorded on bronze with an iron tool, a chisel or engraved forever on rock! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and he, the last, will take his stand on earth. I will be there behind my skin, and in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:23-26). Jesus made this promise to Christians: “I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord. Whoever believes in me, even though he dies will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will not die for ever” (Jn. 11; 25-26).  The celebration of All Souls Day as done annually by Catholics all over the world on November 2nd shows trust in and commitment to Jesus Christ who promised to someday raise the dead to life.

The Project of making heaven

No one can tell the whole truth about the road to heaven better than Jesus of Nazareth. He once said to his disciples: “Enter through the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many go that way. How narrow is the gate that leads to life, and how rough the road; few there are who find it” (Matt: 7:13-14) No matter how much sweet- talking counsellors and motivational speakers try to make of prosperity and of life without troubles, there can be no authentic “Heaven Made Easy” manual. Every human being has a cross to carry to get to that destination. Just listen to the Revelation of John as he tells the story of those who make it to heaven. “At that moment, one of the elders spoke up and said to me, ‘Who are these people clothed in white and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, it is you who know this.’  The elder replied, ‘They are those who have come out of the great persecution; they have washed and made their clothes white in the blood of the Lamb. This is why they stand before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his sanctuary” (Rev. 7: 13-15). Going by this seemingly self-contradictory revelation, it is clear that making heaven will not be “a piece of cake” for anyone. Or how else does anyone wash his clothes white in blood? Human beings therefore, being imperfect, can even after giving it the best shot, fall short of the goal.

Of purgatory and God’s infinite mercy

God does not want anyone to be lost. (Jn. 6:37) That is a fact from the Bible. It logically follows that God’s mercy must never be excluded in our reasoning about heaven and the state of being after death.  That is why the Catholic Church, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), teaches: “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” (CCC) The Church does not shy away from teaching this even though she does not dispose of forensic evidence to convince everyone. Well, no one has a video shot of heaven or hell either. The Biblical episode where Jesus declared that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven here or in the world to come (Mt. 12:32) implies that some sins can actually be forgiven after death. Judas Maccabeus’ practice of making atonement for the dead that they might be delivered from their sin shows that intercession for the dead is not a modern extra-biblical invention (2Macc.12:46). The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is an unrepentant belief and trust in the mercy of God who would do anything possible to rescue what he has created.  God is a just judge, no doubt, but when the same God is mercy itself, we must see how all through the New Testament, without eliminating his justice, God’s mercy emerges as the driving principle of his relationship with man, the crown of all His creation. That is why Catholics pray so fervently on All Souls Day. Joining in can hurt no one but rather, enhance our sense of God’s mercy.