Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Souls

“In a certain home, a little boy, the only son, was ill with an incurable disease. Month after month the mother had tenderly nursed him, but as the weeks went by and he grew no better, the little fellow gradually began to understand the meaning of death and he, too, realized that soon he was to die. One day his mother had been reading the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and as she closed the book the boy lay silent for a moment, then asked the question that had been laying on his heart. ‘Mother, what is it like to die?’ … Quick tears filled her eyes. She sprang to her feet and fled to the kitchen, supposedly to go get something. She prayed on the way a silent prayer that the Lord would tell her what to say, and the Lord did tell her. Immediately she knew how to explain it to him. She said as she returned from the kitchen, ‘Kenneth, you will remember when you were a little boy, you would play so hard you were too tired to undress and you tumbled into your mother’s bed and fell asleep. In the morning you would wake up and much to your surprise, you would find yourself in your own bed. In the night your father would pick you up in his big, strong arms and carry you to your own bedroom. Kenneth, death is like that: we just wake up one morning to find ourselves in the room where we belong because the Lord Jesus loves us.’ The lad’s shining face looked up and told her there would be no more fear, only love and trust in his heart as he went to meet the Father in heaven. He never questioned again and several weeks later he fell asleep, just as she had said. This is what death is like.”[1]

If love isn’t forever, what is forever for?

Love always engenders life. In the God of Jesus Christ, life is love and love is life.

Therefore, if God has loved me, I live. If He continues to remember me, I will continue to be.

Joseph Ratzinger wrote on the occasion of the Assumption of our Lady: “But God never forgets, and we all continue in being because he loves us and because his thinking of us is createive and gives us existence. Our eternity is based on his love. Anyone whom God loves never ceases to be. In him, in his thinking and loving, it is not just a shadow of us that continues in being; rather, in him and his creative love we ourselves, with all that we are and all that is most ourselves, are preserved immortally and forever in being.

“It is his love that makes us immortal. This love guarantees our immortality, and it is this love that we call ‘heaven.’ Heaven is simply the fact that God is great enough to have room even for us miniscule beings. And the man Jesus, who is also God, is our everlasting pledge that man and God can forever exist and live in each other. If we grasp this truth, then, I think, we will also have some insight into what the odd words, ‘bodily assumption into heavenly glory,’ mean.

“The Assumption cannot mean, of course, that some bones and corpuscles of blood are forever preserved somewhere. It means something much more important and profound. To wit: that what continues to exist is not just a part of a human being – this part which we call the soul and which is separated out from the whole – while so much else is annihilated. It means rather that God knows and loves the entire person which we now are. The immortal is that which is now growing and developing in our present life. The immortal is that which is developing in this body of ours wherein we hope and rejoice, feel sadness, and move forward through time; that which is developing now in our present life with its present conditions. In other words, what is imperishable is whatever we have become in our present bodily state, whatever has developed and grown in us, in our present life, among and by means of the things of this world. It is this ‘whole man,’ as he has existed and lived and suffered in this world, that will one day be transformed by God’s eternity and be eternal in God himself.”
[1] Catherine Marshall, “A Man Called Peter,” 260-261.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 116-117.

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