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Chapter 13. Our Eternal Destiny • 153


Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed,

not ended.

When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death,

we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

—Preface of Christian Death I,

Roman Missal

; CCC, no. 1012

The final article of the Creed proclaims our belief in everlasting life. At

the Catholic Rite of Commendation of the Dying we sometimes hear this

prayer: “Go forth, Christian soul, from this world. . . . May you live in

peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion, may you see your

redeemer face to face” (Prayer of Commendation of the Dying, no. 220).

Death is the natural and inevitable end of life on earth. “[There is] a time

to be born, and a time to die” (Eccl 3:2). We change, we grow old, and

even death seems appropriate after a full life. “And the dust returns to

earth as it once was, / and the life breath returns to God who gave it”

(Eccl 12:7).

But the reality of death and its finality give an urgency to our lives.

“Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accept-

ing or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ” (CCC, no. 1021).

This teaching recognizes that the death of a person marks an end to our

earthly journey with its sorrows and joys, its sinful failures, and the tri-

umphs of Christ’s saving grace and help.

The Church teaches that “each man receives his eternal retribution

in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular

judgment” (CCC, no. 1022). St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) wrote,

“At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (


, no. 64).

Perfect love will make possible entrance into heaven, imperfect love will

require purification, and a total lack of love will mean eternal separation

from God.

“Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human

longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC, no. 1024).

This will be brought about by a perfect communion with the Holy

Trinity, the Blessed Mother, the angels and saints. Jesus Christ opened

heaven to us by his death and Resurrection.