Today’s Catechism sections discuss the meaning of death. Supporting material comes from the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas Kempis.

The meaning of Christian death

1010 Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."574 "The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.575 What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already "died with Christ" sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ's grace, physical death completes this "dying with Christ" and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act:

It is better for me to die in (eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek - who died for us. Him it is I desire - who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth .... Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.576

1011 In death, God calls man to himself. Therefore the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul's: "My desire is to depart and be with Christ. "577 He can transform his own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father, after the example of Christ:578

My earthly desire has been crucified; . . . there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father.579
I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.580
I am not dying; I am entering life.581

1012 The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church:582

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.583

1013 Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When "the single course of our earthly life" is completed,584 we shall not return to other earthly lives: "It is appointed for men to die once."585 There is no "reincarnation" after death.

1014 The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: "From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord";586 to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us "at the hour of our death" in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.

Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience .... Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren't fit to face death today, it's very unlikely you will be tomorrow ....587

Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe on those who will die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who will be found in your most holy will,
for the second death will not harm them.588

Thomas Kempis meditates on the reality of death in “Imitation of Christ” (1,23,6-7).

6. Oh, dearly beloved, from what danger thou mightest free thyself, from what great fear, if only thou wouldst always live in fear, and in expectation of death! Strive now to live in such wise that in the hour of death thou mayest rather rejoice than fear. Learn now to die to the world, so shalt thou begin to live with Christ. Learn now to contemn all earthly things, and then mayest thou freely go unto Christ. Keep under thy body by penitence, and then shalt thou be able to have a sure confidence.

7. Ah, foolish one! why thinkest thou that thou shalt live long, when thou art not sure of a single day? How many have been deceived, and suddenly have been snatched away from the body! How many times hast thou heard how one was slain by the sword, another was drowned, another falling from on high broke his neck, another died at the table, another whilst at play! One died by fire, another by the sword, another by the pestilence, another by the robber. Thus cometh death to all, and the life of men swiftly passeth away like a shadow.

Footnotes

574 ⇒ Phil 1:21.
575 ⇒ 2 Tim 2:11.
576 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 217-220.
577 ⇒ Phil 1:23.
578 Cf. ⇒ Lk 23:46.
579 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., 6, 1- 2: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 223-224.
580 St. Teresa of Avila, Life, chap. 1.
581 St. Therese of Lisieux, the Last Conversations.
582 Cf. I Thess 4:13-14.
583 Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.
584 LG 48 # 3.
585 ⇒ Heb 9:27.
586 Roman Missal, Litany of the saints.
587 The Imitation of Christ, 1, 23, 1.
588 St. Francis of Assisi Canticle of the Creatures.