Eschatological Vision of the Ordinary People
Table of Contents
Eschatological Vision of the Ordinary People. 1
The Interview.. 1
1. Major Questions Asked. 1
2. Participants’ Statistics. 2
3. Evaluation of the Interview.. 2
3.0 Introduction. 2
3.1 On Death. 3
3.2 On Life after Death. 3
3.3 On Heaven. 3
3.4 On Hell 4
3.5 On Purgatory. 4
3.6 On Judgment 4
3.7 On Soul and Body. 5
3.8 On Parousia. 5
3.9 On People of other Religion?. 5
3.10 On the Teaching of the Sects. 6
3.11 The Terminally Ill on the Last Things. 6
4. Synopsis. 7
5. Conclusion. 7
1. Major Questions Asked
1. What do you feel if you came to know that you are going to die within few hours?
2. What is your opinion about death? Do you pray for a holy death?
3. Have you ever thought of life after death? Then, how shall it be?
4. Are you afraid to die? Why?
5. What is your understanding of heaven?
6. Do you expect to go to purgatory?
5. Are you afraid to go to hell? What do you think about hell?
7. How do you think of the Judgment of God?
8. What is expectation of the Last Judgment? Will Jesus come again?
9. What do you think of the people of other religion? Whether they will be saved?
10. What is your opinion about people of different sects teaching about the end of the world and immediate parousia and all? Have you ever been to such groups and what is your comment?
2. Participants’ Statistics
|Household Men||25-40||3||Rather Good|
|Household Women||40-70||4||Very Good|
|Youth 1 (Boys)||15-20||4||Rather Good|
|Terminally Ill||20-25||2||Very Good|
Total Participants – 26
3. Evaluation of the Interview
It was a wonderful experience for me to have an interview with all these people in different ways and styles. I have chosen people mainly from the parish of St. Mary’s Church, Njrackal, Ernakulam. I have asked the questions to a few indirectly and to others introducing that I am going to have an interview with them as a part of my study. Both groups responded well. I am satisfied with the persons I interviewed in the sense that they cooperated me well but I am very much dissatisfied with the result I have collected from them. People are quiet ignorant about the basic notions of the Church and at the same time they have got a curiosity to know the things. What they believe is a kind of popular beliefs and superstitial ideas. And as far I understand they are not fed well by the ministers and therefore the ministers do have a duty to educate them with all the possible means.
3.1 On Death
What I understood from the interview is that people generally have fear to die. Two persons told me that they don’t have any fear to die and they are ready at any time to be called by God. But their further reactions to my questions proved that they are also afraid of death. Death is universal phenomenon, perhaps, every living beings on earth has to face. But people are afraid of death and they want live more. Actually they are not prepared to die. They have expectations and hopes with regard to the life in this world. They have their own plans to be fulfilled and do not know what would be the plan of God. Their wish is that if God could do the will of their own. 60% of the people whom I have interviewed have got at least a positive approach regarding death. The 40% are not willing to consider death as something positive. Some of the youth consider death as an intervention by God into the human freedom. For example they say that three of their friends were called to eternal life within last one year. They are therefore afraid of death the villain of their life and they hate such a God who does injustice to his people. The question here may be of unexpected death or innocent suffering and all. But the reality is that they don’t understand the meaning of Christian life and a virtuous life in the context of such catastrophes.
3.2 On Life after Death
People do have a belief in the life after death. 90% of whom I have interviewed have got the clear conviction that they will have a life after the death. Two of the youth girls gave me a negative answer saying that they do not believe in a life after death. For them there is only one life here on earth and they wanted to enjoy it to the maximum. And they also added that they are not worried about hell heaven or a life after the death. Really this answer pained me but I thought it may be because of their age and still pray for them. All others believe that there is life after death. They do have the belief that they will be given a reward from the part of God for all their actions in the world. People are also afraid and at the same time curious to know about the life after state of a soul.
3.3 On Heaven
The traditional belief pattern about the heaven is heard from 80% of the people. Some of them do not believe in such a heaven where there is plenty of honey and milk. They in way understand it as a reward from God for the good works of a person in this world. They do consider it as state of bliss rather than a place of majestic glories. Almost all the people want to go to heaven (for a few if there is heaven) at any cost.
3.4 On Hell
Those 80% who are sure of heaven are also sure f a hell where there is fire and worms. Two people have got the idea of hell as a state of mental agony. Such ones do not believe that there is the so called place hell where there is Satan and all kinds of cruelties by him.
05 of the people have the fear of hell. And they don’t want to go there. 10% do not have any fear about hell. Any way generally people have the idea that I am not worthy for heaven. There is every possibility that I may go to hell, they say. And out of this fear, I saw one old lady who prays every day the litany of the dead and such other prayers saying that it would be helpful for her not to commit sin and to seek the mercy of God.
3.5 On Purgatory
80% of the people also believe in purgatory. They do like to pray for the souls in purgatory. All of them consider it as place between hell and heaven. The general belief is that through the prayers of the relatives of a departed one, the merciful God relives a soul from purgatory and keeps him in heaven. Some people believe that every one has to go through purgatory in order to reach heaven. Those who do not cross the purgatory are the saints they say. People also believe that there is severe fire in the purgatory and the souls suffer for all their sins there in the purgatory unless they were not repaired here on the earth when they were alive.
3.6 On Judgment
All people who believe in heaven and hell do have the idea that there is judgment from the part of God. They are not clear about how this judgment shall be. Any way the general idea is based on the chapter 25 of the book of Mathew. People are not aware of the immediate judgment and the last one. They mix it up; and when I asked distinctly they are in a state of dilemma. Majority believe that the judgment is the Last Judgment at the end of the world. And some say that the soul will be in purgatory until the last coming of Jesus.
3.7 On Soul and Body
The common belief of the people is that they have a body and a soul. The soul will be liberated from the body when one dies. A few people believe that death happens when the soul separates itself from the body. Some others believe on the other hand, that when the body dies the soul leaves the body and it goes to hell or heaven. A few people believe that after the model of Jesus the soul will be moving to heaven or hell only after 40 days. What is interesting in all these people is that they are absolutely certain about all these things. The separation of body and soul is very much deeply rooted in the minds of the ordinary people.
3.8 On Parousia
There is clear and solid belief among the people about the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus. 90% of the people believe that this world will end and 75% of the people believe that Jesus will come again. 10% say that the world will continue to exist. They say the earth may be destroyed, but man will find out some other planet where he can live safe. People are also afraid of the end of the world due to the mis-concepts generated by the sects and all. A few old people told me that it seems to them that the world is going to end without much dely. It will happen in the near future. Those who believe in the second coming of Jesus do have the expectation that Jesus will come in his glory. He will appear on the sky with the sign of the cross. He will gather his people and will judge them according to their sins and virtues.
3.9 On People of other Religion?
70% of the people believe that people of other religion also will be judged by God according to their deeds. They will be saved if they do well according to the norm of their religion. But the 30% believe that there is no salvation for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. According to them those who do not come to Catholic faith will be thrown into the fire of hell. According to them the catholic religion is the true and only religion in the world and those who do not belong to it will be condemned to eternal fire. I found this strong conviction especially among the old women and two Old men. Anyway they also demand a meritorious life for the Christians also to go to heaven.
3.10 On the Teaching of the Sects
I could also ask some questions about the teachings of the sects among our people. Thank God that they are almost aware of the false notions propagated by these sects and the harm hey could impose upon the people. Our priest must have taken some precautions in this area. But there is also a fact that the people are influenced very much by these people. They may not be considering the major concepts against the faith. But the stories and the minor ideas and descriptions influences the people very much. Slowly they began to associate things with these notions. For example, some people and especially the youth are very much certain about what all things are there in heaven. When asked in detail I came to know that all these ideas they have collected from one of the sects active there. They are also sure about the state of soul after the death. And this idea seems to have an influence of Mr. Tom Zachariah and his ‘Spirit in Jesus’.
3.11 The Terminally Ill on the Last Things
I could also meet two terminally ill persons as a part of my interview. Both I met are men around 50 years old. To my surprise these persons are almost prepared for their death. One person is suffering from blood cancer and the other one has lost liver due to over drunkenness and is now also affected by many other diseases (he also undergoes regular dialysis and now is at stage it would not be sufficient to save his life). Interestingly, they feel that they have sinned a lot during there life and still they feel confident in the saving mercy of God. Both of them were addicted to alcohol and smoking in their life and had been a burden to their wife and children. Now they say God has given the proper punishment for their sins. And they are also confident that in some way or other way that the good God will protect their family and will guide the family at their place. Both of them found to be preparing for the death and they really repent on their sins. They also have the confident that the good God will receive them to heaven and will continue to be merciful to their family. One of them seemed to be extremely happy even in the midst of great pain and suffering. They don’t feel that God is acting in an unjust way and has got no complaints against God unlike Job. Their attitude really touched me. They have now received the sacraments after a long time and now pray for a long time. They also have the feeling that if tried they could have lived better in their past life.
Generally I was satisfied with the interview. People have differences of opinion and their opinions, as far as I understand, is moulded from their living conditions and particular situations. The answers that I got would have been slightly changed if I could meet the persons from some other area. Anyway the evaluation gave me the conviction that the lay men of the Church needed to be guided in their spiritual as well as intellectual life. For that the priests must be prepared well. They understand and admire the priesthood to a great extend. Not only that they thirst for good priests. People are still in the traditional frame work of belief systems. It is not that easy to change their flow of thought; but gradual progress in their attitude could be a possible thing. At least the basic Catechism should be taught to people. Sunday sermons are to be made use of catechetical instructions too – not in an isolated way but as the part of biblical interpretation and faith formation of the people. There is an element of fear I the minds of the people regarding the last tings. We always have a tendency to make use of them. This attitude is not a Christian attitude. The priests are therefore to be prepared for the proper training of the people of god.
The eschatological vision of the Church could be well expressed in the words of the Church itself:
The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life. When the Church for the last time speaks Christ’s words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strengthening anointing, and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance:
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you.
Go forth, faithful Christian! May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints. …
May you return to [your Creator]
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life. …
May you see your Redeemer face to face. (CCC No. 1020)
The Catholic Church does have an eschatological vision which is unique to her heritage. The Church does not claim to know the exactness of the eschatological kingdom. Her vision of the last things is related to her understanding of the mysteries. As humans we are not able to know the divine mysteries in its full sense. What we can know is revealed to the church through her saints, doctors and the teaching authority. The church is also waiting for the future glory with the prayer “come, Lord Jesus Christ.”