“For a Christian ending to our life: painless, blameless, peaceful, and a good defense
before the dread Judgment Seat of the Lord, let us pray” (Litany of supplication at funerals)
To die as a Christian is both privilege and duty. The insight that comes only after deep meditation is to grasp the gift which Christ brings us, by allowing us to share His sacred and unique heritage. He made His holy Father in heaven our Father, as well, when we conform ourselves to His will. After we spend a lifetime living for Him, death is our birthday present. Those who die after suffering share the Cross of Christ in which they were baptized. But we are not masochists. There is no joy in agony of any sort, and we pray that our beloved ones not endure unnecessary suffering.
If we are blameless, it means not that we never had sinned, but that we had acknowledged our immoral deeds and struggled throughout our lives to conquer them, having taken advantage of the means which the Church of Christ provides to deal with our shortcomings in an honest way. First, to recognize ourselves as we really are, and not pretend to be without fault. Next, to repent, realizing that our wrongdoings were not trivial misdeeds, not worth the time to mull over, but rather to seek pardon and determine with our whole heart to sin no more. This is the meaning of blamelessness.
To die blamelessly implies not only that we are innocent in the sight of God, though that is the primary meaning. The Church prays that when we die, we do not leave behind a legacy of bitterness, anger, and disappointment in the souls of those with whom we had shared our lives on earth.
So often a role-reversal takes place within a family. The parent in old age becomes not simply weak physically, but often weak-minded. In a word, childlike. The children then must assume the awkward role of parent, never a simple matter. If several children are involved, the parent frequently finds ways to play one child off against the others. Guilt then lifts its head in sundry places. The mutual love of the siblings is in jeopardy. Filial love is tested severely, and the Church prays for understanding at the end, so that the one leaving this world not be held accountable for the disharmony of the offspring.
Christians have always lived in a state of tension between the commands of Christ and the demands of the world. The civilization in which we are living has its own concept of a human being. By its definition, each person—or better, each individual—is accountable only to himself or herself for what he or she does throughout a lifetime. The fact is, each person especially when it comes time to leave this world, sums up and somehow examines the entire process of life. Just as the embryonic life has a natural development from the union of sperm and ovum to the time of birth, so our post-uterine lives are intended to come to fulfillment. They should make sense wholly, and each moment of life be understood in relationship to the entire cycle. Peace is therefore the natural state of one’s having realized the totality of God’s plan for one whom the Lord caused to have the gift of life, and who was intended to complete a purpose unlike anybody else whom He created.
Death is not logical. The Almighty is the Lord of life. Death is the ultimate test of our faith. The summary of a life of Christian living is revealed by the way we die. Even though we had lived a mere veneer of commitment to Jesus throughout the years, there is no room for hypocrisy at the moment of our death. The sign of hope, therefore, is a peaceful passage from this life to everlasting life.