We have all faced that unwelcome moment when something we dislike is placed before us…for me it is a dish prepared with sardines or anchovies. We might have an aversion to medicine but we take it out of necessity since it is for our good.
In these final days of the liturgical year, the Church places before us truths that are not very palatable. They are what the catechism calls the “last things”—death, judgment, heaven and hell. They make up what is called “eschatology”— the teachings about the end times and our eternal destiny.
The Church, as a good mother, for our good, reminds us that life is fleeting and that our true goal is heaven. Purgatory is a great possibility but at least we are assured of heaven!
In the time of our Lord most Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead, in life after death, except for a group called the Sadducees. They appear in the Gospel today to ridicule this belief, challenging our Lord with a far-fetched dilemma involving marriage in the afterlife. They present the case of seven brothers, who die one after another, each having married their sister-in-law. Could you imagine being that seventh brother—would you really go visit your sister in law? If the resurrection is for real, whose wife would she be?
Jesus brushes off this absurd case and affirms the truth of the resurrection. He turns to Moses, whom the Sadducees respected, pointing out how he addressed God as the God of the living and not of the dead. Jesus explains that life beyond death is not an extension of earthly life but something entirely different. Marriage belongs to the life of earth not of heaven. But this does not mean we shall not see our spouse in heaven. We shall enjoy eternity with all our loved ones there. It is just that heaven is beyond time, beyond our experience and as St. Paul affirms, beyond our imagination…so much so that our attempts to describe it, fail so miserably. Think of it…we die we get wings; we get a trumpet or harp. We float along on our personalized cloud waving to our neighbors as they float past us! No Way!
Our resurrected body is not reincarnated into another body. We are not changed into angels, nor do we become ghosts or pale copies of our earthly bodies.
At times, I hear someone say, “Father, my cousin Mary died. She was a very religious person and now I know that I have an angel watching over me. “No, you don’t. You may have a saint but not an angel. Our resurrected body will be a glorified, perfected body. Thank God! St. Augustine idea was that we would have the body we have at 33 years of age. (Why 33? Because Our Lord was thought to die and rise when he was 33 years old.) This was just his idea but I am comfortable with it!
The Church would have us be prepared for this all-important event, this reality that we must all face. Confession is one of the greatest helps we have to prepare. It should be a regular part of our spiritual life but how often we defer its reception; perhaps because we have forgotten what to do. All we need to do is ask the priest to help us along. Perhaps we struggle because we don’t know what to confess. We have lost a sense of sin. By our confessionals we have guides to confession. Feel free to take one. Some feel they cannot fit it into their busy day. It takes time!
Never fear the confessional. It is not a torture chamber but a place of renewal and peace. Our spiritual life warrants the investment of time.
There is a triple entrance into the Cathedral of Milan. Over each doorway is a message. Over the left doorway one reads: “All that pleases is but for a moment.” Over the right doorway: “All that troubles is but for a moment.” Over the central door we read: “That only is important which is eternal.”
Let’s ready ourselves for that reality!