Life Everlasting
210 Pages
English

Life Everlasting

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Everyone encounters the question of death at some point in their lives. We all ask it and to some degree, we all try to avoid it. But we who are Christian turn to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for answers. Walk with Monsignor J. Brian Bransfield as he follows the threads that run through our lives and the gospels, deciphering the very clues that shed light on this unsettling question. Sharing personal experiences and a deep understanding of theology, Bransfield brings hope to those who grieve and peace to those in sorrow. This is a welcome and accessible volume for anyone pondering death and the mystery of the afterlife.


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Published 01 August 2015
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EAN13 9780819845832
Language English
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Catholic Understanding/Catholic Living
hat happens to us when we die? As Christians we do not have Wto fear death, for it is the gateway to eternal life. Te cross and
resurrection of Jesus gained for us the path of salvation. Msgr. J. Brian
Bransfeld writes of our ultimate destiny in a way that gives hope to
those who grieve and peace to those who sorrow.
“Te deepest part of the human heart longs for the joy,
tenderness, and everlasting peace that God has prepared for us
all. In this inspiring work, Msgr. Bransfeld ofers us a beautiful
vision of that eternal embrace of the Father for his children.
Life Everlasting will open hearts and minds to the great gif of
God, eternal life, and love in his Son, Jesus Christ.”
— Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, Executive Producers
of Te Bible, Son of God  and A.D.: Te Bible Continues
“Why does death happen? What do our lives mean in its
shadow? Tough we all try to ignore these questions, we
can’t avoid them, for they go to the heart of being human. In
answering them, Msgr. Bransfeld has achieved something
extraordinary. He’s written a ‘simple’ book on a profound
subject—a book about mortality and eternal life that’s rich
in clarity, reason, faith, and hope, sufused by the warmth of
personal witness. A wonderful read.”
— Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia
“Msgr. Bransfeld takes us on a uniquely personal and brilliantly
crafed journey to a rediscovery of the four last things.”
— Brian J. Gail, critically acclaimed Catholic author,
speaker, and entrepreneur
$15.95 U.S.
ISBN 0-8198-4580-9IN PR AISE OF
Life Everlasting:
Te Mystery and the Promise
“With superb storytelling and precise thought, Msgr.
Bransfeld delivers a beautiful truth in Life Everlasting. Tis
is not just another book seeking to dismantle the myths of
atheism. It is far more. Te reader immediately -fnds them
selves faced with the “dilemma” of our mortality and the
natural life questions that accompany it. Msgr. Bransfeld
proves to be a gifed and sage guide as he walks the reader
through philosophical canyons and over theolo- gical moun
tains, ofering numerous insights and fresh refections along
the way. Tis book not only reminds us of life’s origin, but its
purpose, its meaning, and its goal. I look forwar -d to re-read
ing this book . . . it will help countless souls navigate the ofen
painful waters of life (and death).”
— Mark Hart, Executive Vice President, Life Teen International,
and best-selling Catholic author, speaker, and radio hostLife
EVERLASTINGLife
EVERLASTING
The Mystery and the Promise
J. Brian Bransfield
With a Foreword by
Seán Cardinal O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap.
BOOKS & MEDIA
BostonLibrary of Congress Cataloging-in- Publication Data
Bransfield, J. Brian.
Life everlasting : the mystery and the promise / J. Brian Bransfield.
1 online resource.
Summary: "A Christian answer to one of the oldest and deepest questions that
each of us asks: what happens to us when we die?"-- Provided by publisher.
Description based on print version record and CIP data provided by publisher;
resource not viewed.
ISBN 978-0-8198-4581-8 (epub) -- ISBN 978-0-8198-4582-5 (mobi) -- ISBN
9780-8198-4583-2 (pdf) -- ISBN 978-0-8198-4580-1 (pbk.)
1. Eschatology. 2. Death--Religious aspects--Catholic Church. 3. Future
life-Catholic Church. I. Title.
BT821.3
236'.2--dc23
2015012367
Unless otherwise noted the Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New
Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993, Division of
Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the
United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All other Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, Revised
Edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington,
D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No
part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the copyright owner.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use
in the United States of America, copyright © 1994, 1997 United States Catholic
Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice V aticana. Used with permission.
Cover design by Rosana Usselmann
Cover photo istockphoto.com/© theevening
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording,
or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing
from the publisher.
“P” and PAULINE are registered trademarks of the Daughters of St. Paul.
Copyright © 2015, J. Brian Bransfield
Published by Pauline Books & Media, 50 Saint Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130–
3491
www.pauline.org
Pauline Books & Media is the publishing house of the Daughters of St. Paul, an
international congregation of women religious serving the Church with the
communications media.
For
Reverend Monsignor Ronny E. Jenkins, S.T.L., J.C.D.

“When they heard
of the resurrection of the dead,
some scofed, but others said,
‘We should like to hear you on this some other time.’ ”
— Acts of the Apostles 17:32

Contents
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv
Acknowledgme n. t. s. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvii
Introduct io. .n . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Chapter One
Questions and Cl abues out Dea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . th 5
Chapter Two
The Painful “No M o . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . re” 17
Te pain behind the questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Feeling the pain death leaves behind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Touching the pain: “no more ” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Chapter Three
From “No More” to “More T h. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . an” 25
Seeing and touching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Common objections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Te temptation to drop the thread and turn back . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Death and atheism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Chapter Four
Holding On . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Te Family: God’s preference for the obvious . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Chapter Five
The First Clue: Exist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ence 39
Gardens: perennial truths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Rocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Tomato e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . s 42
Rex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Te momentum in existence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Created in the image and likeness of God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Te human soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Chapter Six
The Second Clue: At Reason’ s Ed. . . g. .e. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
From the garden to the toy store . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Our yearning as a clue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Te contingent yearning for the Infnite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Te deep places of Being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Faith and reason . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Te beginning of faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
Chapter Seven
The Third Clue: Sin and D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . eath 65
Death: Is God the culprit? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Death fashioned by human hands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
Original Sin: the fault lines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Te sin of the fallen angel s. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Te Protoevangelium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
Te connection between sin and death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Death’s deeper secret . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Chapter Eight
Jesus and Death: God’s Own T . .ears. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Magic , mystery, and miracles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Jairus’ daugh t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . er 90
A widowed mother burying her o n . . . . . . . . . . . . . ly son 93
Lazaru s. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
A sign and pledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
Chapter Nine
The Cross of Jesus: Death Overcome fro m W. . . .it. h. .in. . . . . . 105
Our Lord’s cry fom the cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
Te wound in Our Lord’s side . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Christ’s descent among the dead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
Reverence for the body of the decease d. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Chapter Ten
Jesus and the Resurrection: God’s O . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .wn Joy 125
Te empty tomb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
Te appearances of the risen Lord . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
Te road to Emmaus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Te wounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
Te resurrection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Our resurrection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Te ascension . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141
Chapter Eleven
The Last Th i n. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .gs 145
Te particular judgment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
Hell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
Purgatory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
Heaven . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160
Te general judgment and the resurrection of the body . . . . . . . . . 163
Conclusio n 171
Selected Bibliogr a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .phy 177

Foreword
One of my favorite biblical images of Jesus is that of the Good
Shepherd. He comes to gather the scattered and to seek out the lost
sheep with great care, compassion, and mercy. Te shepherd’s staf
that Jesus uses to gather the scattered is the cross. It is the power of
the cross that gathers us into one. Yet this gathering requires the
shepherd to lay down his life in Jerusalem.
Jesus’ last stop in his journey toward his death and resurrection
was Bethany, a small village that was home to the siblings Martha,
Mary, and Lazarus. It was an oasis of friendship, hospitality, and
peace for Jesus. It was where he went when he want -ed to be sur
rounded by the love of his friends. It is no surprise that Jesus made
this his last stop before proceeding to his sufering and death in
Jerusalem. Bethany prepared Jesus for Jerusalem.
We all need “Bethanys” in our lives—especially when we face
difcult decisions, trials, oppositions, sufering, and death. In the
prayerful atmosphere of Bethany we can deepen our se- nse of voca
tion and our friendship with the Lord, who calls us to eternal life
xvxvi Foreword
with him. If we have not visited Bethany, we will never survive
Jerusalem. I am so grateful to Reverend Monsignor J. Brian
Bransfeld for the gif of this book, Life Everlasting: Te Mystery and
the Promise. It is a Bethany for us in that it helps us to grapple with
the real questions of death and pain in the light of t-he Lord’s prom
ise of hope and of eternal life.
In the early chapters of the book, Monsignor Bransfeld takes us
through his personal experiences as a boy attending his frst wake,
and the upheaval of his life when his mother died suddenly. He was
only twelve years old at the time. Yet these experiences of death
allowed him, at a young age, to ask the big questions of life. Tey
have allowed him to refect deeply in order to share the wisdom that
is contained within this profoundly moving volume.
My hope is that this book will be like a visit to Bethany for us,
allowing us to grow in our awareness of Christ’s presence in our
lives—especially during times of sufering and pain—so that when
we inevitably encounter them, we will rest frmly in the hope that is
ours in Christ Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Psalm
126 reminds us that God transforms our tears into laughter and our
sorrow into joy. I pray that through this book, we may visit Bethany,
surrounded by Christ’s friendship and transformed by his healing
love.
✠ Seán Cardinal O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Boston
Acknowledgments
Te opening chapter of this book begins with the events on an
afernoon in August 1977, in a small room, in a house on Lyceum
Avenue in Philadelphia. Te concluding chapter ends in that same
small room, sixteen years later, in October 1993. Te actual events
described are meant to serve as both the launching pad and the
landing gear, to help the reader explore the teaching of the Church
on the mystery of death, eternal life, and the four last things.
Tough the events of those two days are etched in my memory,
these chapters would likely never have been written without a
request I received from my editor at Pauline Books & Media in
Boston, Massachusetts, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
December 12, 2012. Sister kindly requested that I consider writing
a book on the mystery of death, eternal life, and the four last things.
Before that day I had never thought of doing so. Afer writing this
book, I cannot imagine h noavt ing done so.
I am, therefore, deeply grateful to the team at Pauline Books &
Media for their considerable expertise in all the details of
xviixviii Acknowledgments
publication that have brought this work to complet -ion. In particu
lar, I am thankful to Sr. Sean Mayer, FSP; Sr. Marianne Lorraine
Trouvé, FSP; Sr. Donna Giaimo, FSP; Mrs. Cathy Knipper; Ms.
Vanessa Reese; Ms. Kaelin Corina; and Mr. Brad McCracken.
Finally, I am most grateful to the Most Reverend Charles J.
Chaput, O.F.M., Cap., the Archbishop of my home archdiocese of
Philadelphia, for his encouragement and support; and to Cardinal
Seán O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., for the thoughtful and mov - ing fore
word of this work.
Introduction
“Jesus says Yes to his Father’s creation
and goes in search of all beings lost in the world maze,
1in order to bring them home.”
— Hans Urs von Balthasar
At every death one can fnd the thread or clue for the journey to
discover its meaning. Tat journey takes us along the way of the
teaching of the Church on the mystery of eternal life and the four
last things. In this book we will journey together, examining the
mysteries of salvation as they relate to human death and eternal life
with God. As we do, we take as our principal method what Cardinal
Pierre de Bérulle, the sixtc eeentuh r-y French mystic, referred to
1. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Teodrama Teological Dramatic Teory IV: Te
Action (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 444, cf. 78.
12 Life Everlasting
2as “the science of salva Utiosun a .”lly we associate science with the
study of biology, chemistry, or physics. But science, in its most basic
meaning, refers to an ordered and logical body of knowledge.
Science is the study of a series of connections. Catholic theology is a
3science, the frst of the scie Cncatesho . lic theology presents the
highest of realities: divine revelation by which God reveals to us
knowledge of the mysteries of God’s own life. Tis is why Saint Paul
encourages us, “[God] has made known to us the mystery of his
will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a
plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in
heaven and things on earth” (Ep10). h 1:9–Div ine revelation assists
our own natural reason as we fnd our way.
Many fne books have identifed the steps of the g-rieving pro
cess, and those works are important and helpful. Tis book does not
outline precise steps, but it is also designed to help those who mourn
the loss of a friend or loved one. Te experience of loss and
refection on eternal life are not two separat thee t y lead iopics— nto each
other. When we meet one, we meet the other. In considering the
mystery of eternal life made known through the words and deeds of
Jesus we must frst consider human death. Trough examples of my
own experience that served as the basis of crucial clues hiding right
in the open, we will follow the thread through one of the oldest
mysteries that the human race has faced: the mystery of death and
eternal life. Remember, mystery cannot be rushed. Gentleness is the
handle by which we open the door of mystery. Terefore, this work
devotes time to highlight connections hidden beneath the sacred
2. Pierre de Bérulle, Discourse on the State and the Grandeurs of Jesus as in Bérulle
and the French School Selected Writings, Te Classics of Western Spirituality (New
Jersey: Paulist Press, 1989), 116.
3. Saint Tomas Aquinas, Summa Teologiae Ia, q 1, a 5; cf. IIa IIae, q 1, a 5.