32nd SOT Luke 20 27-38
To be a Christian demands a lots of sacrifice. What is the one thing that motivate us to be a Christian? There is coming a day when we all will share the glory of God. In the responsorial Psalm we pray today “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full. Looking forward to sharing with the Lord in His glory let’s ask the lord to give us the grace to lead a life of courageous sacrifice with the destination of eternal Glory!
You may remember the story of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. Lazarus spent four days in the afterlife, but the Bible tells us nothing about what he saw in his journey to heaven and back. I have heard few testimonies of people who have had near-death experiences. Their stories are unique but they can only give us a glimpse into heaven.
In fact, the Bible reveals very few concrete details about heaven, and the afterlife and what happens when we die. God has a good reason for keeping us wondering about the mysteries of heaven; because our finite minds could never comprehend the realities of eternity. Suppose a person blind from birth were asking you to describe the different colors of different flowers in a garden, then, how would you go about it? You would have a problem. Multiply that problem a hundred times; and a thousand times. This is the problem the Lord has when describing heaven. The Lord or the Bible has a problem in describing heaven not because they are incapable of describing it; but because we are incapable of grasping it; or comprehending it. Like the blind person from birth, we have never seen it before.
“Where is the problem? If we describe heaven as a state of perfect peace and happiness and love that will last forever, we feel like we gave a nice definition to heaven. But it is not that simple at all. What do you mean by “a state of perfect peace?” is it the absence of turmoil, less anxiety, less conflict than we usually do? That may be a part of it; but that is not perfect peace. It is true with happiness and love. We do not know what perfect peace is because the peace we have is sullied with so much that is opposite. We do not know what perfect love is because love in this world is overshadowed by aversion, by separation, and by hatred. We do not know what goodness is because the goodness is contaminated with evil. We only have shadows, flickers, and sparks of all these eternal qualities of God. The Lord’s problem is that the human beings are too incapable of comprehending these realities of heaven. Heaven will be a place where we see and experience these realities in their pure state without any shadow or stain.
But the bible do give us some kinds of ideas about heaven as Jesus said in today’s’ gospel to the Sadducees. In the life in heaven there will be no marriage for everyone will be like his angles. “He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be nor more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3). The bottom line is that heaven is where God is and it is going to be such a wonderful place that no human being is capable of understanding that beautiful life with God. Life in heaven is going to be a real surprise for Christians. St. Paul in 1Cor 2/9 says “But as it is written, what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,” St. Thomas More pointed to the expectation of heaven’s joys that await the faithful: “Take all the pleasures of all the spheres, and multiply each through endless years. One minute of heaven is worth them all.” C. S. Lewis says Christians who has a genuine belief in the joys of heaven seem to be the happiest people here on earth and also the most likely to make the earth a more livable place.
If there is one belief that the men and women of our world need today it is the belief in the resurrection and eternal life in heaven. The reason is that it is the effective solution to the contagious disease of materialism. Once, an American tourist visited a Polish rabbi by the name Hofetz Chaim. The tourist was a little surprised to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with few books, a table and a bench, the tourist asked, “Rabbi, where is your furniture?” “Where is yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled tourist. “But I’m only a visitor here. I’m only passing through.” “So am I,” said Hofetz Chaim. Hebrews 13/14 says “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come”. Colossians 3:1-4 Paul says “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. 1 John 3 2-3 we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.
Seven brothers were arrested, tortured, scourged, and killed because they would not compromise their faith (2 Mc 7:1ff). These heroic deaths have inspired and transformed the lives of many for centuries. This nameless Old Testament family prefigures the Christian family. How holy, fearless, and faithful a family can be when they are united with the Lord and one another and are deeply grounded in faith in Jesus’ resurrection and our resurrection from the dead! This family loved God and each other so much that all seven brothers with their mother suffered mutilation, torture, and execution so as to be faithful to the Lord. This was a family of eight saints, all martyred. We are all going to die. The question is not: “Will I die?” but “How will I die?” Will my death be a mere statistic? Or will I glorify God by my manner of death? (Jn 21:19)
Let me tell you something about these Sadducees. They are more worldly and relaxed; they did not believe in the idea of eternal life. They were a minority group, wealthy landowners and merchant. They collaborated with Rome, minimalist in religion, rejecting the teaching about angels and spirits. They accept only the first five books of the Scriptures as word of God. No rabbi had ever produced evidence of a next life from those first five books. But Jesus managed to do so! Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the most prominent figures in those first books. In Exodus 3:6, God calls himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He defeats their arguments by showing that God is a living God of a living people. God was the friend of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when they lived. That friendship could not cease with their death. If these men are just dead, said Jesus, then God is reigning over a kingdom of death, not a kingdom of life!
If you believe only in death you see only death everywhere. Jesus, who is “the way, the truth and the life”, calls us to believe in life. As far as I know, no Sadducee is known by name in the New Testament; and the whole group died out after 70 AD. They got what they believed. It is important to pay attention to your beliefs, because you become what you believe.