C Cycle -32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 19
Over the years I have heard people speculate on what heaven will be like. The truth is we really do not know. We know from the scriptures people have been raised from the dead, in the Old Testament and in the New. Yet, there is not one recorded word of what they experienced in that life after death. Therefore, it is a fascinating subject about which we can only speculate. Most of the concepts we hear about life in heaven has us experiencing an extension of the life we lived while on earth.
Today’s gospel has the Sadducees, which also include the priests, questioning Jesus about a legal question about marriage after death. The truth was the Sadducees, and the majority of Jews do not believe in the resurrection of the body. Only the soul was significant in its relationship with God. The Jews believe the soul exists apart from the body; thus, it does not need the body to exist with God. To the Jew the body is the person and the soul exists beyond the death of the person. To the Christians, our humanity is the union of body and soul and God created us to exist in a body, soul combination that would never die.
The Jewish concept of bodily resurrection only began about a century before the birth of Jesus. This belief began among the most conservative sect of Judaism, the Pharisees. They somehow, reflecting on the Hebrew scriptures came to understand the soul is not just freed from the corrupt body at death but humans were created to be more than just angelic creatures living in the presence of God. They began to espouse a belief that the body was not to be discarded at death but was to be restored, rejoined to the soul and live forever in the presence of God. This was God’s intent as He created us and that plan never changed after the sin of Adam.
The aim of the Sadducees was to trap Jesus by using the law in order to debunk this foolish believe that the body would be raised at the resurrection. They accepted there could be life after death because they had seen it When Lazarus was raised, the synagogue’s official’s daughter (Lk. 8:55) was brought back to life, along with the widow’s sons in the New and Old testament. But their belief was more like a resuscitation not a resurrection. Life could be restored by God and the person resumed the life they had before death. A life that was filled with pain, suffering and yes death.
God was clear when He said we would be resurrected and would live a life free from sickness, from pain, free from natural disasters or any of the daily trials and tribulations of life as it exists on earth. In our resurrected state, we will not worry about paying bills, keeping warm in winter, our kids’ safety or experience war, famine or hatred. All the things which occupy our daily existence today will no longer a concern. When Jesus say’s we will be like angels, He is telling us our bodies will no longer be subject to death and decay because it will be changed to be like Him in glory, immortal and perfect.
We cannot imagine being in that state because all we have only known is a life where we are vulnerable and live a life, we know is fragile. Disease, someone’s carelessness, another person’s actions can dramatically change our life in an instant. This is not how things will be after our death.
The legal question the Sadducees asked of Jesus was a good one, but their understanding of a resurrected life was flawed. Just how does marriage work for us as we are rejoined in heaven? How do we relate to those we loved here on earth as they join us in heaven? Marriage, as God intended, is a relationship of self-giving sacrifice for the good of the other.
It is intended to be one where our selfish nature is put aside so the other will experience pure love which never judges, condemns, never finds fault, never demands but a love which only sees the good embedded in the one they love by God. Yet, if you have been married for any amount of time you know there are other forces at work blocking your ability to give that kind of love or receiving that kind of love. Daily life gets in the way of us loving our spouses as they should be loved each day. We have forces, of finances, work, children, health, influences of parents and in laws, all combining daily causing us not to love as we should.
In the resurrection, those forces are removed and we in our restored glorified bodies will be able to love in a pure, self-giving relationship because our desire for deep intimacy will be total and complete. Jesus reveals this is possible when he said: No one knows the Father but the Son and no one knows the Son like the Father. The word know has as its root meaning not an intellectual knowing but the kind of knowing that is the result of deep physical intimacy.
In heaven we will share love; joy and we will delight in the presence of those we loved in this live. We will share a new transformed life. In fact, one thing I believe will happen is the things we experience here on earth, the things which have stimulate our senses will be heightened because we will have not impediments blocking our ability to love. Our love will be more intense, more intimate and certainly purer in motive. It will be the self-sacrificing love of Jesus flowing from us to those we loved here on earth.
The real issue for us in our faith journey is often one we ignore. We would rather speculate about all these useless concepts which only prevent us from examining how much we believe the promises of God. My experience is we still have doubts about our judgment by God because the guilt of our past sins haunts us. We have not embraced the freedom God desires us to experience because of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.
The inspired Word of God gives us the one way to stop speculating about life after death and it is very clear – we must believe our sins have been forgiven because God said He would forgive all sins if only we allow Him to pour His love into our hearts.
The real question about what life is after death is answered by how much we believe. Do we believe salvation is ours because of Jesus’s death on the cross? If we believe that then what we experience in the resurrection will be more than we can imagine.