Death and conflagration, by St. Albert Chmielowski

Death and Life

November 27, 2021 • 8 min

We’re so afraid of bad things happening, but that’s exactly what Jesus came here to save us from. The more we love Jesus and trust in him, the less our problems in life can hurt us.

The Letter to the Hebrews says:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death—that is, the devil—and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. (Hebrews 2:14, RSVCE)

In other words, he joined himself to our nature, becoming a human being, so that he could rescue us from what’s enslaving us to sin.

And it says that fear of death is what’s enslaving us to sin.

Well I don’t know about you, but I distinctly remember being a kid, sinning, and it having nothing to do with fear death.

So, is the Bible wrong? Of course not. It’s asking us to look deeper at its meaning.

What is death exactly? Not the scientific definition, or terrible descriptions. We all know it’s bad. But, what actually is the problem with death?

Death is bad for two reasons: (a) it stops us from having good times, and (b) it’s painful.

Well, as a kid, I was definitely afraid of pain, and I definitely didn’t want the good times to stop.

So that must be the bigger picture that the Bible is asking us to look at. By fear of death, it apparently means we’re afraid of not getting what we think will make us happy, or having things happen that we’re afraid will hurt us or make us sad.

That’s why many people describe losing a family member as a kind of death. Because the good times with that person have stopped, and the sadness about the person being lost is going to remain for some time.

So what did Jesus do, from this perspective? Well, first of all, he literally died.

The good times from the perspective of this life had stopped for him, ending at the Last Supper. And the bad times started in the Agony in the Garden. All of the Passion was painful from that point on, until his death.

But! There’s more to the story! He didn’t just die and that’s “The End.” No!

He rose again from the dead!!!

What does this mean from this perspective of death?

First, the bad times were completely and permanently gone! There’s no more pain, no more death, no more sickness, no more sadness. It’s all completely over with, forever!

Second, the good times are here to stay! They will never end! And they’ll be even better than they were in this life!

It’s like a family party—or maybe a wedding feast—where night never comes, the wine never runs out, but you never get drunk from it, nobody ever goes home, the jokes never get tiresome and repetitive, you never get full from the food, the games never end, basically it lasts forever and it’s always good and happy for the whole time!

(I’m not saying that’s what Heaven will be like. It’ll actually be way better than that.)

So, Jesus destroyed Death—this concept of death that we’re talking about—for both himself, and anyone who trusts completely in him, obeys him, and loves him.

That isn’t hard. We don’t all have to be martyrs. We don’t all have to literally die on a cross.

For most of us, all God asks us that we love God, love each other with a Christian love (“Agape” or Charity), resist every temptation with our whole being, and form our conscience according to what God has revealed to us through the Catholic Church.

Because ultimately, what makes us most unhappy of all, is when we think that this life is the end goal and start to make ourselves at home here, looking for all our comfort, our pleasure, our happiness in the things of this life.

The Letter to the Hebrews talks about that too:

These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.

But as it is, they desire a better country—that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13, RSVCE)

See? They knew this life wasn’t their homeland. They know Heaven is their true home, and they only make themselves at home there.

That’s probably why Abraham went to the promised land and set up a tent. You don’t set up a tent in a place you plan to stay a long time, only in a temporary home. He showed that the promised land on earth—the best possible times we can have in this life—are nothing compared to Heaven, and that we should make our heart at home only in Heaven, not here.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (Jesus, in John 12:24, RSVCE)

That’s not to say we can’t enjoy this life. Enjoy everything God gives you, with deep gratitude and a deeper love for God because he’s so good and merciful to us in giving us all these good things.

But as long as bad things have to sometimes happen, we should remind ourselves that this life is not our home. We’ll get there only through one gateway: when Jesus takes us out of this world, into the next one.

And that’ll only happen if we’re good! So be good. Love God with your whole heart. Love whoever God puts in your life, for the sake of loving God. Avoid all sin and all near occasion of sin with your whole strength.

Then you’ll be able to trust that, when bad things are happening, either you’re getting your punishment for your past sins and it’ll soon be over, or you’ve already paid them off and you’re just earning extra help for yourself and your loved ones.

And then you’ll always be ready for Jesus, whenever he comes back. Whether he comes back for you personally, or for everyone on the last day.

It’s going to be a great feast on that day. The Bible says so:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying,

Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb[a] has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:6, RSVCE)

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