Catholic Q&A

What makes you believe there is “eternal life” after death?

Everyone is afraid of death. Fear is an honest emotion. The sculptor Funakoshi Yasutake recalls the following. “A gloomy endless darkness awaits a few steps ahead of me, and I strive to flee from it.” (Akebono, September 1990 issue). This is a frank confession of a soul, and it grips us. How do we know whether what awaits us at the end of our lives is a gloomy endless darkness or not?

Regardless of whether we are Christians or not we all have this anxiety. To resolve it we have various religions, and Christian faith also provides an answer to such anxiety. However, whether the answer will convince you or not is something each of you has to seek and discover within your own heart.

Do you also believe in God the Father whom Jesus trusted, and to whom he commended himself in the midst of his sufferings unto death? The Father was the one who created each of us. He desires our happiness more than anyone else. Do you believe that he eagerly awaits our return? Death is the most crucial factor in human life, an event that will undeniably strike us someday. It is an event that decisively questions the meaning of life. In a situation like this would you still believe in such a God? In facing a destiny like this where you are totally helpless, do you believe God will accept you and embrace you when you throw yourself into his gentle arms?

If we have such trust in God the Father, we would be enthusiastic about going to church, we would study various doctrines, and become true Christians. This is because Christian faith is ultimately not mere reason or theory, but a basic decision to live. Faith does not consist in accepting a system of teaching. Rather, I believe it is ultimately the simplest and most vital trust of human beings. When considering the fact of Jesus calling on the Father while on the cross, and the fact that the father did not betray the trust of Jesus but rather raised him to eternal life, Christians will feel that the invitation to eternal life has been granted to them as well.

A leading German theologian is said to have told a critically ill friend, “Do not worry my friend. Just be a little patient and you will soon be with your father.” Viewed from a human standpoint, Christian faith consists in looking upon dark and terrifying death as the gateway to eternal life. It is merely a passage and not something absolute, but yet it is the only means whereby a human being can attain the Father. It is a way of living wherein you believe and offer yourself. The death and resurrection of Jesus are a call for us to do this, and aside from this call I find no other convincing answer to the anxiety that people feel with regard to death.

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