We have all wondered what will happen after we die. It is an existential question of such great importance that our response to it determines how we conduct ourselves throughout this life. It is so great a mystery that no mortal can ever adequately describe it. St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, in which he presents the theological virtues and the nature of God, hints at the coming reality: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13).
Consider the difference between your mortal being and your future eternal being. Right now you perceive the world in 3 spatial dimensions and experience the passage of time. Your earthly body is born in the form of an infant, grows into a child, and develops into an adult. Your mortal body will eventually age and decay until you experience death. While in this state, your soul is drawn easily into the corruption and death of sin, and exists in a state of great danger and struggle.
Once you pass away from this world, there are two possibilities for your eternal being: the one in which you hope will be forever sinless, young and healthy, possess limitless knowledge, be blessed with unending joy, and be united with God in His loving nature; the other possibility is that your soul, having chosen eternal separation from God, the author of Life, would be in a state of eternal and indescribable agony as it would be forever devoid of all life, love and hope. These two possible ends, if we contemplate them seriously and deeply, can inspire our relationship with God while we are alive. For more information, see We are Called to be Saints.
The Nature of God
Look at all the things around you: they are either man-made objects or a part of nature belonging to the created universe. All of these will eventually pass away. The earth will be consumed by the sun in a few billion years, the sun itself will die, and even the universe itself will decay and cease to support life. What could possibly be created that will last forever? Such an eternal substance, which cannot possibly even be part of the known universe, is something scientists have never discovered, can never prove exists, and is beyond all human imagination. And yet God exists forever, is the creator of the universe and all life, and promises to unite our bodies and souls with Him in Heaven if we respond properly to the salvation offered by His Son.
Contemplate for a moment the fact that love is not scientifically necessary for the physical universe to exist or to conform to the laws of physics. Yet God has given mankind the gift of love. Love, therefore, stands completely outside the created universe and is our connection with Heaven. Love is God’s eternal sign not only of His existence, but also of His covenant with us.
Consider the connection between these two great truths: God is the source of all life, and God is love. Taken together, they imply that whatever makes eternal life with God possible must have its origins in His infinite love, which the Church teaches is the greatest of all things. God’s perfection is therefore rooted in love, and since we are called upon to be perfect in loving Him and our neighbor, we must conclude that such a commandment is His divine invitation to establish the basis for eternal life. Being able to love as God does is a divine gift from God carrying divine power, and is therefore God’s gift of eternal life itself.
The Holy Path of Love
The sacrament of Holy Matrimony, when lived according to His Holy will, orients us toward God’s invitation to enter into the sacrifice of perfect love for our spouse. For those who have been blessed with Holy Orders, their love of God and their spiritual children goes even deeper, impelling them toward their total surrender to Jesus. If we are to be united with Him in eternal life, we must be perfected in the way we love either through a saintly life here on earth (see We are Called to be Saints) or through the purification of Purgatory.
God’s plan is to draw us to Himself through His Son. Jesus said, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32). God created mankind, and through His Son, who came down from Heaven, created the way to eternal life. In giving us the Eucharist, Jesus declared that it is the source of life: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). This is the miracle of the eternal source of life breaking into our universe, which is why the Eucharist is so precious and important.
Our Citizenship in Heaven
We are children of God and bear His likeness: “When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God; he created them male and female. When they were created, he blessed them and named them humankind” (Genesis 5). But we are mortal beings created from dust whose bodies will return to dust. To be united forever with God in Heaven, we must be made again in a new way, and God has promised to do so: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (Corinthians 2:9).
In your contemplation, visualize your eternal life in Heaven, remembering these words: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself” (Philippians 3:20).