32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time-C
2 Maccabees 7: 1-2, 9-14
2 Thessalonians 2: 16–3: 5
Luke 20: 27, 34-38
We all want to go to heaven, right? But we’re not in any hurry to get there, yes?
A doctor met his rabbi one day at the mall. The rabbi said, “Just think, Sam, the Messiah is coming soon.”
The doctor responded, “God forbid! I have finally established my medical practice, my wife and I just built a new home, our children are in excellent schools, and we have tickets for a penthouse suite on the Queen Mary II for a holiday cruise. If the Messiah comes, we will have to move to Jerusalem!”
“Calm yourself, Sam, calm yourself,” the rabbi said. “Did not Almighty God save us from Pharaoh in Egypt? Did He not save us from Goliath and the Philistines? Surely He can save us from the Messiah!”
Perhaps we are more like that doctor than we think. Yes, we all want to go to heaven, but not just yet. “Save us from heaven, Lord!” Besides, in spite of all those holy pictures, we are not sure what heaven is going to be like.
In today’s Gospel, the Sadducees – a group of Jewish leaders who did not believe in heaven – posed an absurd riddle to Jesus to try to show that His teachings about eternal life were ridiculous.
They told Him about a man who died without having any children. So, according to the law of Moses, his brother was required to marry the widow so that the family name could be preserved. Well, there were seven brothers and this poor widow married and buried all seven! “Now,” the Sadducees asked Jesus, “at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”
Perhaps, if we are honest, those Sadducees were asking some of our kinds of questions about heaven.
We can wonder, for example, whether babies who die will still be babies in heaven. And what age will we be when our bodies rise again in glory? Saint Augustine [354-430] decided that everyone would be thirty-three – which was Jesus’ age when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. Saint Augustine thought that being like Christ meant even to be the same age!
Will our pets be in heaven? Will we all be thin? Will we still get to eat there? What will heaven be like?
With all of our questions it is important that we listen to what Jesus had to say to the Sadducees when they asked Him whose wife the woman who had married and buried seven husbands would be.
Jesus said that their question was irrelevant. Why? Because all will be radically different in heaven. All will be beyond what we can presently imagine or experience.
One hundred years ago, people could not imagine open heart surgery or a computer or even a television. And yet all these things are commonplace today. So why do we think we can fully imagine heaven?
Sometimes at funerals I hear people say things like: “They are probably enjoying the great golf course in the skies!” Oh my… if that’s all there is, if that is as good as it gets, I might as well hang up my vestments and join the circus!
The lowly caterpillar, in its wildest caterpillar dreams, could never imagine that one day it would fly – and fly as a beautiful butterfly.
Jesus is saying that our earthly categories are so limited. Heaven is a new state of being. It is beyond what we can ever fully imagine here.
So, only one thing remains: faith. Believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead so that we could live with Him forever in heaven. And what awaits us there will be an absolutely amazing surprise.
Now it is all right that we try to visualize heaven. The poets and musicians chime in with their verses and melodies.
The artists come along and paint heavenly scenes with harps because they know that music is the nearest thing we have to ecstasy on earth. And they depict gold crowns because gold does not rust, indicating “the forever” of heaven.
But still, the poets and musicians and artists are all straining.
My advice to you is: keep on dreaming about heaven. But, when you meet God there, be prepared to be totally amazed.
Saint Paul hits the nail on the head when he writes about heaven: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2: 9].
Believe Jesus and His promises. “I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be” [John 14: 3].
Believe and follow Jesus. God will not leave us disappointed. Jesus promised that we have an absolutely amazing heaven to look forward to!