On this 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time its appropriate that as our liturgical year comes to its end, so our Sunday Gospel also points us toward the end times.
Section 282 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church assures us that knowing what happens at the end of human history is “decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions.” Our view of the end times determines our view of salvation history. Knowing what happens at the end of our lives and the end of human history is of supreme importance for understanding why God made us and what He has planned for us both in this life and in the next.
Unfortunately, many people and groups are promoting errors about the last things and many Catholics are vulnerable in this area because they do not know the Church’s teaching on the end times.
The Church has a well developed theology of the four last things; Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.
Death: “Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When the single course of our earthly life is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: ‘It is appointed for men to die once.’ There is no ‘reincarnation’ after death. The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death…”
Judgement: Catholicism distinguishes between two kinds of judgements at death. The first is the Particular judgement, determining the fate of the soul at death, and secondly, the General judgement, which will occur when Christ returns and is upon mankind as a whole.
Heaven: “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they see him as he is, face to face… “
Hell : “We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbour or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death.