For To Me Life is Christ and Death is Gain

Clergy Corner by Fr. Robert

A challenging question often heard from cynical unbelievers to us Christians is the following: “You Christians are supposed to believe that ‘a heaven’ awaits you when you ‘pass on’ from mother earth. Why is it, then, when you are sick in hospitals you are praying to get well, so as to be able to continue on living in this world?” “Who are you kidding?” If you really believed there was a heaven awaiting you -- where there are no more tears, no more suffering, no more death -- you wouldn’t be desperately calling out: “I don’t want to die!!” You wouldn’t be running about to find the best doctor or hospital available to give you a little more time on earth before succumbing to that “grim reaper.”

“Come on, You Christians -- face up to it -- It’s all wishful thinking on your part -- Heaven is pie in the sky -- it’s all in your mind -- a way to get around the actual reality that death is your destiny -- you were born to die -- as were all of us -- you simply don’t have the “guts” to admit it.”

Implied in this “challenge” of “unbelievers” are actually two gratuitous assumptions on their part: One -- that we Christians are cowards -- unwilling to accept the inevitability of death with its absolute finality -- where we no longer have any existence whatsoever -- and two, that there does not exist a greater and deeper meaning in the time we are here on earth -- a meaning that transcends “time” and looks to the ultimate reality before us which is not “time” but “eternity.”

Let us begin in our response to this challenge by reminding everyone -- God has revealed to the world that while we had nothing to say as to our coming into time -- including the life style we find ourselves in -- we do have something to say as to how we are to enter into the Mystery of God Himself and His revelation to us about eternity -- the source of which is God.

All of this comes about in the revelation of the Mystery of the Incarnate Word of God -- Jesus Christ -- whose Resurrection from the tomb with a glorified risen Body reveals to us that the tomb -- time -- is not to be our destiny but “eternity” as found in the glorified Body of Christ. Christ has said: “You are with me or against me” (Mt 12:30). “With me” is being eternally WITH God, and “against me” means forever separated from God -- in a counter -- environment revealed as “hell.” To paraphrase -- God revealed Himself as “good” and thus we understand the definition of “evil” as being the “absence of good.” Hell, then, is the epitome of evil since God is not present.

The fact is that the Christian is the one who is courageous in facing death, since God has revealed to us that: “Just as it is appointed that human beings die once and after this the judgment…” (Heb 9:27). ALL of us must at some moment stand in judgment before God to give an accounting of how we lived our lives on earth -- and on the basis of that life will we live its effect for all eternity as being of eternal joy or eternal regret.

This leads us to the paradox that we Christians, even in sickness, are called to live out our lives on earth to the fullest in giving glory to God, by seeking to get well, and yet, our ultimate goal is being forever with God in heaven -- how do we reconcile these apparently conflicting goals -- time and eternity? If sick in the hospital, we seek to get well; but our ultimate meaning is not to be found in time but in eternity!!

Here is our response to the atheist‘s mockery that while heaven is to be our purpose, yet we bend over backwards to stay alive on this earth!!

The answer is found in Scripture. The reason we want to live as long as possible on earth is because we on earth can give to God what no one in heaven any longer has need to give to God -- namely, acts of faith. Recall how Jesus while on earth was always seeking faith from among those about Him, and yet how little faith was given Him. How often did Jesus say: “Oh ye of little faith.” Or, how pleased was Jesus when a gentile expressed faith in Him: “I tell you, I haven’t seen such faith like this in all Israel” (Lk 7:9).

Thus, we Christians, while on this earth, each day can answer the question of Jesus: “Who do you say that I am;” to which question each day we can many times answer, in prayer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and offer our prayer for the conversion of all those refusing to acknowledge the God who created them. Thus do we continuously give added glory to God while we are on earth, as we look forward to an eternity with Him in heaven. “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil 1:21) -- a win-win situation!!!

Tags: Clergy Corner, Fr. Rober

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