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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

And death shall have no dominion

Here's a bit from something I saw at Thinking Anglicans. I was reminded of a post somewhere else with discussions of whether there is an afterlife or not. I don't know if there is, but one thing that makes me think it's possible is love - the fact that I still love those who are dead. There's a part at the end of Cormac McCarthy's book The Road (spoiler!) ..... where the father is dying and the little boy says he'll miss him so much. The father says the boy can still talk to him if he wants to and he'll hear him. The boy asks if the father will talk back. The father says yes, but the boy will have to use his imagination to hear him. After the father dies, the book says the boy talked to his father every day for the rest of his life.

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Credo: ‘In Heaven we shall see each other as we really are’
- Roderick Strange

During November we remember those who have died. It can be comforting, but it can also raise questions even for those who believe in an afterlife .....

... (big snip) ....

When we wonder about life after death, there are so many questions of varying subtlety. None of us has all the answers. But there is a wisdom in recognising that love may be one of them. The very suggestion that love is the answer is so well worn that it may well seem worn out. But that may be because we have let slip our awareness of what we mean by love. We know about the emotion and we know how mercurial it often is. We recognise it too as something more than feeling: it is the bond that binds us in decisive commitment, the fruit of desire, something we have willed. And then love also names us as we are at our best.

I think of a couple in their later middle age whom I used to visit years ago. The wife had had a stroke, and her medication had caused side-effects that disfigured her. One day her husband said to me, “I wish you could have seen her when she was young. She was lovely”. And I in my foolishness said to him, “I suppose you can still see glimpses of that in her”. He told me, “That is all I see”. Love is more than a quality we possess. It is not an abstraction. It is ultimately what we are called to become.

Heaven is code for the presence of God where love is made perfect, and we are perfected in love. There we shall see one another as we really are, when all imperfection has been wiped away. Beauty will be revealed; those we love will be instantly recognisable, whatever the throng; whatever further journey there may have been, those who love will not have passed beyond each other, but will be united by love again; and those who had no hope of such a consummation, but were passionate for justice and truth, will find their deepest longings satisfied beyond their wildest dreams.

Monsignor Roderick Strange is the Rector of the Pontifical Beda College, Rome

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