Author: ks. MieczysЕ‚aw Piotrowski TChr,
"Love One Another!" 14/2009 → The Main Topic
The shocking testimony of Dr. Gloria Polo tells of her “near death” experience — the experience of one who set foot on the very doorstep of death and yet did not cross it.
God allowed Gloria Polo to experience the fundamental truth about death, a truth that every Catholic ought to know. Her testimony, so full of suggestive imagery (for this is the only way we have of expressing a spiritual reality) brings home to us the greatness of God’s Mercy and what awaits us after death. It tells us of the unrepeatability of our life on earth, of the tragic consequences of sin, which can lead to eternal damnation or, at the very least, to great suffering in Purgatory. Such spiritual experiences always carry with them the danger of an evil spirit leading us astray; however, viewed in conjunction with the truths of divine revelation, the substance of Dr. Gloria Polo’s testimony appears reliable enough.
There is no reincarnation
Gloria Polo was an ardent believer in reincarnation. To her great shame and chagrin, she discovered during her near death experience that reincarnation was a treacherous deceit of the devil. God tells us in Holy Scripture that we live on earth but once: “Do not forget, there is no coming back” (Sir 38:21); “it is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). Our time on earth is unique and unrepeatable; we die only once. God tells us this Himself. The claim that there is reincarnation is an insidious ruse of the Evil One, who desires us to trivialize the consequences of our sins and stop believing in the divinely revealed truth about eternal death and the unrepeatability of our life on earth. What Jesus Christ teaches through His Church is perfectly clear: “When the ‘single course of our earthly life’ is completed’ [Lumen gentium, 48], we shall not return to other earthly lives: ‘It is appointed for men to die once’ [Heb 9:27]. There is no ‘reincarnation’ after death” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1013).
Those who insist on believing in reincarnation attest not only to their great religious ignorance, but also to their betrayal and rejection of Christ’s teaching, since they chase after “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Col 2:8).
Our Sister Death
We cannot, without loss of our human dignity, live out our life while remaining indifferent to the meaning of the death that surely awaits us. Death awakens in all of us a horror of eternal annihilation. We instinctively recoil from the thought of the total ruin of our personality; and yet we stand powerless before the necessity of dying. This revulsion against death and desire for immortality is nothing more than the voice of Christ Himself within us, who appeals to each and every one of us to cling to Him in faith, for only He, by His own death and resurrection, bestows upon us the gift of eternal life. In dying we must all experience our utter impotence and helplessness before the truth that in and by ourselves we are dust and nothingness and that the one source of love and life is Jesus Christ. Holy Scripture tells us that death is the result of sin (Rom 5:12) and the experience of its consequences: “For God did not make death, and He does not delight in the death of the living” (Wis 1:13); “Death came into the world through the envy of the devil and they experience it who belong to him” (Wis 2:24). The Second Vatican Council states, “while the mind is at a loss before the mystery of death, the Church, taught by divine Revelation, declares that God has created man in view of a blessed destiny that lies beyond the limits of his sad state on earth. Moreover, the Christian faith teaches that bodily death, from which man would have been immune, had he not sinned, will be overcome when that wholeness which he lost through his own fault will be given once again to him by the almighty and merciful Savior….Christ won this victory when He rose to life, for by His death He freed man from death” (Gaudium et spes, 18).
The God-Man, Jesus Christ, suffered a real human death and, by His resurrection, achieved the decisive victory over death and the power of Satan. Thanks to Christ and in union with Him, death becomes the gate by which we enter the fullness of life. Every one of us has the opportunity of participating in Christ triumph over sin and death, if we will only live and die in union with Him. Thus, for a Christian, the greatest misfortune is not bodily death, but lack of faith and remaining in a state of mortal sin — that is, spiritual death, lack of sanctifying grace, severing the bonds of life and love that bind him or her to God. For the Christian who remains united with Christ through faith, physical death will be “a casting of oneself blindly into the arms of God, the birth day of a new life” (St. Maravillas of Jesus). In the face of death, St. Francis of Assisi prayed: “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister death, whom no living man can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sins! Blessed are they whom death meets in your most holy will, for there will be no second death to do them harm.”
In dying we will have to taste a portion of the suffering that Jesus experienced at the moment of His death, when He appealed to His Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34). The fear of death, then, is a natural reflex of which we need not be ashamed and which we can profitably offer up to Jesus. St. John the Apostle speaks about “dying in the Lord” (Rev 14:13). Who dies in this way shall not be hurt by the “second death” (Rev 2:11). If by availing ourselves of the grace of Holy Baptism and the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist, we die to sin every day so as to live for God (cf. Rom 6:3-11), then at death we will receive the gift of eternal life. St. Paul observes that the entire life of a Christian ought to be a preparation for “death in the Lord” — a constant dying to sin; “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:10-11). The Book of Revelations calls those who die in the Lord “blessed,” for “their deeds follow them” (Rev 14:13).
St. Faustina Kowalska described the beatific vision in her Diary: “Today I was in heaven, in spirit, and I saw its inconceivable beauties and the joy that awaits us after death….I saw how great this joy in God is, for it spreads to all creatures and makes them happy….This source of joy is unchanging in its essence, but it is always new, gushing forth happiness for all creatures. Now I understand Saint Paul, who said, “Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him” (Diary, 777); “O my God, how I pity those people who do not believe in eternal life; how I pray for them that a ray of mercy would envelop them too, and that God would clasp then to His fatherly bosom. O Love, O queen!” (Diary, 780).
Holy Scripture describes death in union with Jesus as a ‘putting off of the body,’ a striking of “the earthly tent,” a ‘being away from the body” (cf. 2 Pet 1:13-14); 2 Cor 5: 4,8). One of France’s great writers, Léon Bloy (1846-1917), when asked on his deathbed, “What do you feel at this moment?” replied with joy, “I feel an insatiable curiosity!” A man of profound faith, Bloy was able to see his final agony as a preparation for his joyous meeting face to face with Christ at the moment of death.