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Pope Francis gestures as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 27.

Vatican City

Pope: To face death well, stay close to Jesus in needy

By CAROL GLATZ, Catholic News Service | Published December 5, 2013

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—The thought of death and losing a loved one is scary when there is no faith in Jesus guiding people to an everlasting life, Pope Francis said.

“If we live united with Jesus, are faithful to him, we will be able to face with hope and serenity even the coming of death,” he said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 27.

The day’s catechesis on death and the resurrection of the dead, and a continued reflection on the topic scheduled for Dec. 4 would be the last in a series of talks during the Year of Faith on the creed, the pope said.

If death is seen as the final end, it’s frightening and “becomes a threat that shatters every dream, every prospect, severs every relationship and interrupts every journey,” the pope said.

But deep down, people know there has to be more.

When people lose a loved one, they feel in their heart “that this can’t be all there is,” that the gift of life “was not worthless,” he said. This instinct and a “yearning for the eternal” reflect the Christian meaning of death, he said.

“Jesus’ resurrection gives not only the certainty of life after death, but shines light on the mystery of the death of each one of us” and offers consolation, he said.

“People tend to die as they have lived,” the pope said.

“If my life has been a journey with the Lord with faith in his immense mercy, I will be prepared to accept the final moment of my earthly existence as the definitive, confident letting go into his welcoming arms,” and in anticipation of seeing God face-to-face, he said.

“This is the most beautiful thing that can happen to us, to contemplate face-to-face that wonderful face of the Lord, to see him, how he is beautiful, full of light, love, tenderness,” the pope said. “We are heading there, to find the Lord.”

Jesus invites people to prepare on earth for life in heaven with him, Pope Francis said.

“There is a sure way to prepare oneself well for death—by staying close to Jesus with prayer, in the sacraments and also in practicing charity” by reaching out to those in need.

Jesus is “present in the weakest and neediest,” the pope said, and he identified himself with them when he said that those who clothe the naked, feed the hungry and visit prisoners are clothing, feeding and visiting him and, therefore, would have eternal life.

“Whoever practices mercy is not afraid of death,” the pope said, asking audience members if they agreed. After the crowd shouted “yes,” the pope asked everybody to repeat the phrase and “say it out loud together so as not to forget.”

“If we open the door of our life and our hearts to the least of our brothers, then also our death will become a door that will lead us to heaven,” he said.