I think many people would agree that 2020 has been a very trying year. Whether COVID issues, racial tensions, violence and unrest, or election and political issues, we have had to face quite a lot these last eleven months. However, even as the calendar year comes to a close and we prepare to roll into a new year, we recognize that difficulties and hardships will not simply end. Tomorrow will brings its own problems and today’s problems are enough for us now.
Throughout all the struggle, we are still called to be a people of hope. To recognize that our Lord comes to free us from sin and death and bring us into new life to reign with him in his Kingdom of Peace. Without faith and our hope in the resurrection, this world would look much more bleak. Contemplating death without that faith must be truly disheartening and lead to much despair and depression. It is understandable why so many people would seek to avoid those thoughts and seek instead to live only in the moment.
We as Christians, however, are encouraged and even expected to remember death (“memento mori”). We not only remember and participate in the re-presentation of Christ’s death and resurrection at every Mass, but we also reflect on our own death to sin and our dying in the flesh. We, then, who have died with Christ, hope to rise again with him as well. We are to look beyond death to the hope of the resurrection, recognizing that death is a change – not the end. And since we long for the life to come, we seek to live our lives now with that goal in mind.
What we do here and now does have an impact in that life to come. Jesus specifically calls us to store up treasure for ourselves in heaven (cf. Mt 6:19-20). The good deeds we do now in cooperation with God’s grace, will benefit us in heaven. We should desire to spend our time and energy throughout our lives toward that goal. We should strive day by day, year by year for virtue and its rewards to prepare for death and the life that follows it. As the saying goes, it takes a lifetime to die well.
During this month of November as we pray for the dead, let us also remember our own death to come. May it not lead us to despair, but instead inspire us to live virtuously in the hope of heaven where we will stand with all the saints around the throne proclaiming the glory of the one who has saved us by his love.
-- Fr. Timothy Gapinski