IF PEOPLE are asked, “Do you want to die now?” chances are that 99.99 percent of the time, the answer will be “No.” Inspite of problems, troubles and difficulties that come our way, life is beautiful. Thus, man has the natural desire to live long, in fact, to live forever. The quest for immortality is simply innate in the majority of the human race.

Yet one thing is certain: everyone will die. Some live long and others short but all will expire. Why? Because the Bible says so. Hebrews 9:27 states, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that, face judgment.”

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Verdict: no one can escape death. The good news, however, is that death is not the end of everything; it is only the beginning of our next life. As the famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi goes, “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” But what kind of life? It depends. It may be eternal joy and bliss in heaven which no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, and no mind has ever conceived, or it may be eternal doom and suffering in hell which no pain and misery in this world could ever equal.

Heaven and hell are real. To realize that they exist only after we die is too late. We only have to recall the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Thus, the time to prepare for our eternal destination is now, and the place to prepare is here. God is never happy seeing his children go to hell; he loves us so much that he in fact gave his only begotten Son, Jesus, to suffer and die on the cross so that whoever believes in him, repents for his sins, and accepts the atonement sacrifice he has offered in place of our punishment will be saved.

Today’s gospel gives all true Christians the hope of eternal life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even if he dies will live, and everyone who believes and lives in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Thus, in death, the life of a Christian is not ended but changed. The old things will pass away to give way to the new ones and at the proper time, the imperfect, mortal earthly body will give way to the renewed, immortal heavenly body. When at last we close our eyes in death, we open them again in eternity. Seeing God face to face, we will be with him forever and ever, marveling at his beauty, goodness, kindness, love and perfection in the company of his saints and angels. Romans 8:11 says, “If the Sprit of God who raised Jesus from death lives in you, then he who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of his Spirit in you;” while Philippians 3:20-21 states, “We are citizens of heaven and we eagerly wait for our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ to come from heaven. He will change our weak mortals bodies and make them like his own glorious body, using that power by which he is able to bring all things under his rule.”

Let us then nurture the hope of eternal life, unmindful of the temporary hardships that will soon come to pass. St. Paul writes, “I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us… Creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:18, 20-21).