Date: Sunday, November 17, 2019
In the Lives of the Saints, we have two examples of saints having a conversation about heaven: St. Monica and St. Augustine (mother and son) and St. Scholastica and St. Benedict (sister and brother). Speculating about “life after life” is not something we normally do. Yet, resurrection and eternal life are two fundamental beliefs that we hold as Catholics.
In the Gospel, Jesus is in discussion with the Sadducees about resurrection. Sadducees, a group of conservative aristocrats, propose a hypothetical case of one woman being married to seven husbands! Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection because resurrection is not explicitly mentioned in the first five books of the Bible. Like a press conference, they intend to trap Jesus by asking: “Now at the Resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus does not answer their question directly but counters that earthy customs and norms do not continue in heaven where/when we do not die. We will be “like angels” and “children of God.” Jesus underscores a profound truth and teaching in the Bible: “God is not a God of the dead but of the living!” This truth is beautifully expressed in our first reading, Second Book of Maccabees, when the fourth son/brother facing torture and death affirms: “”It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.” St. Paul writes to the Church at Thessalonica: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”
Resurrection is a matter of faith, what we believe, but very much a matter of hope and love. Jesus being raised by the Father is our hope to be raised and with him in heaven. Recently I heard the story of a mother speaking about her nine-year-old son who had leukemia. She observed that he faced his aggressive therapy and suffered bravely during the day and at night he rested peacefully. She asked him how he could sleep so soundly. He remarked because “of the light.” Close to his own death, he told his Mom that he was going to die and wanted her to experience “the light.” He placed his hand on her and she saw/felt the light. It lasted for 2-3 days. Her son died. She lives with the hope that her son, after his own death, continues to be surrounded by light. “Eternal life grant to us O Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon us. May our souls and the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace. Amen.”