Tag Archives: Theology

Week of the Darkness versus the Light: Death

In honor of this week of Halloween, and remembering the departed, I will post about themes that deal with the battle of darkness versus light.  This post’s theme: death.

What I always find deeply ironic is how many Christians I know are afraid of death, or feel sorry for someone who has died.  Yet, there is a firm belief in Heaven.  So what gives?

Photo Credit: Wallpaper 4 God

There is a deep attachment to our world that is not conducive to what Christians have faith in.  Why would any Christian be worried about another Christian who has died?  The only good reason to be worried is the answer to this question:  will a person be granted access to Heaven, or has the person done unspeakable things and will go to hell for it?  This question is reason enough for worry, nonetheless, I don’t run into people who are concerned with it.  The concern about the dead tends to be placed about the tragedy over someone not living any longer, or the fact that we have to now live without the person.

These thoughts are not Christian.  What is Christian is the certitude that there is an afterlife.  It is Christian to hope that God’s mercy is deeper than anything we can imagine, and therefore, a soul does have a real chance of getting into heaven.  To help that soul reach it’s destination, we pray for the soul.

I am not arguing against sorrow and mourning.  In fact, I have seen how people have not properly recognized the importance of grieving.  I have noticed when people are not sympathetic enough.  They don’t offer consolation, but instead, empty statements.  “It’s okay, it was her time to go.”  “God works in mysterious ways.”  “Don’t cry, everything will be ok.”  Statements are not what people need in their time of distress.  Presence, listening, and crying along with someone are some of the supports people need.

This simple reflection on death is more about recognizing how we understand it when we are not in distress.  Why would a Christian think it is sad for someone to pass on into the afterlife?  Is not the Christian message to the world that it is not trapped in a meaningless life cycle, but that we are given an opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through Christ?

Since there is an afterlife, Catholic theology promotes praying for those that have passed on as well as asking those who might be or certainly are in Heaven for help.  That only makes sense if we can communicate with the dead.  No, you don’t need to have supernatural powers or bust out magic to start talking to the dead.  Prayer is already that special way to connect with those that have transitioned from this physical reality to the spiritual.  It is that simple.  Just don’t believe your going to get any concrete communication back…after all, it would freak you out.

St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “O Death, where is your sting?”(1Cor 15:55)  In the letter to the Romans, he goes on to further explain this crucial soteriology (theory of salvation; Rom 6).  Christians do not need to fear death or be saddened by it.  It’s natural to feel that way, but alas, there is much to hope for!

Go, and celebrate with others this Good News: humanity no longer is a victim of death; death has been conquered, and we have the opportunity to make it a transitional event versus a final event of our life.

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.

Amen.

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A thought on the Death Penalty

Sr. Prejean is most famous for her book made into a movie, “Dead Man Walking.”  This video here is when she gave a sermon at Holy Family Church, Pasadena, CA October 7, 2012.

The video is about 20 minutes, and in summary she points out:

  • If Catholics are pro-life, can they really decide not to stand up against the death penalty?
  • Does not the death penalty make violence a solution, therefore validating it?
  • All churches need to do much more for victims of violence, and not only promote an elimination of the death penalty.  Otherwise, it would be missing the point!

Proposition 34 is worth your vote if you do believe in redemption and forgiveness.

Vatican 2: An Update or A Total Revision of Catholic Faith?

Vatican II @50 years (Oct. 2012)I was very fortunate to attend at Loyola Marymount University the first session of eight that looks into the effects of Vatican II in the Catholic Church.  I know V2 was a huge catalyst of change in a variety of areas of Catholic life.  From what I hear, there was a rail where people would come up to and wait kneeling to receive communion, and that nuns and priests would be the ones to teach religion.  That is far from the case now.  And believe me, there are more changes that came that I just take for granted as I say to myself, “We always did it this way.”

The session (or symposium, to use the proper academic term) was helpful in that it summarized what some of the key themes were; it delved into naming some of the struggles that the “laity” or “people in the pews” had during the changes after V2; and it presented the effects of V2 on the Latin American Catholic Church and Asian Catholic Church.

Yet one issue that the presenters discussed was whether V2 was a progressive occurrence, or an event that was only restating in different terms what the Catholics always held to believe in.  It’s a sharp contrast of “either/or” mentality.

The speakers said, “It’s a council of both/and,” not “either/or.”

As my title suggests, there are many who see V2 as a “total reform” of Catholicism.  And there are others who suggest that the reforms were too radical, and that V2 was merely updating how we think of certain theological ideas, but wasn’t intended to change the Catholic culture as what has happened since then.

Yet, going back to the response of the speakers, there is more depth given to the work of V2 if it viewed as a council that was both total reform and an updating of Catholicism.  It was a council that restated the traditions in different terms, and a council that sought to replace theological ideas that were not faithful to basic Christian principles.

Think of it as the CD industry and the MP3 industry.  There was a “total reform” in that CDs were no longer needed.  Yet, in the bigger picture, it was also keeping to same goal: delivering music to the consumer.  I’m sure there are debates about this as well, but my point stands: CDs were overhauled with MP3 downloads, but it was still the same thing: a method of delivering music.

My great hope is that people will use the “Year of Faith” as a time of reflecting in small groups over documents of Vatican 2.  And anyone not Catholic can take part in the same exercise by reviewing important writings from theologians that have affected their particular faith affiliation.

Education is the best remedy for confusion and division of people due to misinterpretations.