In the wake of Halloween, death is fresh on the mind. Last week, the neighbors were hanging up their last-minute decorations and putting the final touches on their haunted houses. Skeletons littered the front yards, spiderwebs were strung across tree branches, ghosts and bats swayed in the wind. This is what our society imagines death to be - creepy, dark, sad, horrific. With this frame of reference, of course one would want to avoid death at all costs and cling desperately to this life - a perspective that naturally leads to the notion of YOLO, and all of its effects. Essentially, this notion says, you better pursue every sort of fleeting pleasure you can, without thought of consequence, because “you only live once”, and then everything is over.
But God’s message about the afterlife is so different from that depiction. In the book of Wisdom we hear that, although “In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died...they are at peace.” Those who have gone before us are with God, soaking up His love, grace, and mercy in an existence without worry, pain, or suffering. Can you even imagine?? This is the life that we often find ourselves expecting and trying to achieve on Earth, only to be sorely disappointed. But this life does exist! And God’s hope for each one of us, as explained in the Gospel, is that we get to enjoy that in Heaven with Him.
If this life is not the end, and real joy can only be found in Heaven, then this completely changes our perspective on our Earthly lives. “You only live once” is actually a true statement. We do only have one life here on Earth...only one, finite lifetime in which we decide by our thoughts and actions where we want to spend eternity. This should create in us a healthy sense of urgency to start living life the way God intended it to be lived. If Earthly life is but a trial period before the REAL life begins, then we should be using this time to prepare our everlasting souls for that. And if we remember this life is only a tiny blip of time in the span of eternity, it can make it easier to deny ourselves sinful indulgences and accept temporary burdens, trusting that the reward will be tenfold.
We can't forget that Hell is real and it will be our destination if we obstinately persist in rejecting God. But this is not a “fire and brimstone” sermon. And unlike the creepy Halloween decorations, it is meant to bring hope. The things we are constantly searching and yearning for here on earth - perfect joy, calm, comfort, love - CAN be found! And if our lives offer us many trials and tribulations, we need not despair, because it is only temporary. But we do have to start making that decision now. If we want to spend eternity with God, then we have to choose Him today, and tomorrow, and every day of our lives.
Dear Jesus, show me how to live my life in a way that is pleasing to you. Grant me the gift of hope so that I do not despair in the disappointments of this Earth, but look forward to the complete fulfillment of Heaven.