Date: Sunday, November 06, 2022
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 ordinarily do even though resurrection and eternal life are fundamental beliefs that we hold as Catholics.
In the Gospel, Jesus is in a discussion with the Sadducees about resurrection. Sadducees, a group of conservative aristocrats, propose a hypothetical case of a woman being married to seven husbands – all brothers. 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 trip up 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 earthly customs and norms do not apply in heaven. We will be like “angels” and “children of God.” In Jesus’ view, the sacred shared life of a married couple bearing children is a foreshadowing of the intimacy that the children of God will enjoy in the age to come.
Jesus underscores the profound truth and teaching in the Bible: “God is not a God of the dead but of the living.” This truth is heroically expressed in our first reading, the 2nd 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 and assurance that we will be raised and with him among the Communion of Saints in heaven. Several years ago I heard the story of a mother speaking about her nine-year old son who had leukemia. She noted that he faced his aggressive therapy and suffered bravely during the day and at night 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. She lives with the hope that her son, after his death, continues to be bathed in the light.
Some have lit candles and placed them on the altar steps as we celebrate ALL Saints on November 1st and Commemorate the Faithful Departed on November 2nd. Our hope is expressed simply: “Eternal life grant to us O Lord. Let perpetual light shine on us. May our souls and the souls of the faithfully departed in the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen”