Death is the cessation of our present earthly lives, the moment of separation of our souls and bodies. Once dead, we cease to choose between good and evil: death irrevocably fixes our state for eternity. Although death came to us because of sin, not God’s will, God has removed its terror for us and made it the path to eternal life. We should therefore remain in God’s friendship, live each day as if it were our last and ask God for the grace of a holy death.
Many ask what happens when we die. First, there is a particular and unchangeable judgment which follows immediately upon our deaths. Second, as the Creed affirms, there is a final and universal reckoning at the end of time when Christ “will come again”. At this Second Coming Jesus Christ will “judge the living”, those still alive, “and the dead”, united physically with their resurrected bodies.
Jesus Christ reveals that heaven is our eternal home where God gives us the vision of his face and shares his divine life with us. Scripture describes heaven as a city or kingdom where the saints enjoy the perfected creation and the reward they deserve. Those who die in God’s grace either go straight to heaven or first enter purgatory, a place of purification for sins and for reparation. Only those who freely choose to reject God’s grace to the very end of their lives will fail to reach heaven. The state of those who have chosen to resist God’s offer of salvation is called Hell. We should truly hope for heaven since it is God’s desire for us. We should ask him to prepare us for heaven even if we face sufferings on the way. It is good to make the saints our companions through prayer and to pray for the holy souls in purgatory (c.f. 2 Macc 12:44).