Once there was a skeptic who said to a priest, “Father, if you really believe what you preach, then I challenge you. Drink this poison here and if you don’t die, I’ll believe.” The priest replied, “I have a better plan. Because I really believe in what I preach. Drink the poison and I will raise you up!”
Sadducees find no happiness in life and living. That is why they are called sad you see. They believe that death is certain, absolute and final to every human being. We are in agreement with them that there is certainty in death. Aeschylus in Agamemnon said that there is nothing certain in a man's life except this: that he must lose it. Death is also the great equalizer. Somebody wrote that you can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.
However, we do not believe that death is final. As followers of Jesus, we profess that death is not the end. It is simply the beginning. Where he goes, we hope to follow.
In trying to trick Jesus, the Sadducees asked a stupid question about a woman married to seven husbands, all of them brothers. Parenthetically, I pity this woman that they cited as an example. I see her entering the Pearly Gates only to be welcomed by seven former husbands. I bet you that she would definitely go back and check the sign on the gate just to make sure that it really did say “Heaven.”
Jesus gave a serious answer to their childish question. He has the authority to speak about the subject because He has been there and He lives there. He did not give a description of what life in heaven is like. Heaven is beyond our human comprehension because it transcends our understanding of space and time.
Simply put, heaven is where God is. And if heaven is God’s home, it is where our hearts should be because heaven is our only home.
Jesus then said something about what heaven is not. There are no marriages in heaven, other than the marriage of the Creator with the created. There is no more death and dying in heaven, for there is never ending life. And there are no more tears in heaven, for there will be everlasting happiness.
If heaven is great, why is it that most of us are afraid of death? It is quite understandable. Death is a horrible feeling to the one who died and to those who are left behind. Both suffer significant transition. Both are affected by permanent separation. If we are like the Sadducees who believe that death is the end, then death will always be feared and detested. If we are like the Sadducees who believe that death blots our existence away, then death will always be an enemy and a rival to life.
Jesus has been through death. If we believe in Jesus, we should never be afraid to die. We will never get to heaven unless we die. There is life after death. Jesus said that he will be waiting for us as He sits at the right hand of the Father. Jesus said that He sent the Holy Spirit upon us so that we will be guided to heaven.
And Jesus would never lie to us.
We will never have enough time, imagination, intelligence and answers to questions about death, suffering, dying, life after death, heaven and hell. However, our faith begins where our questions end. Our belief in God begins where our explanations fail. Our faith in Jesus begins where our doubts end.
The Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, asked Jesus about what happens after death. The answer to their question was before their eyes. Jesus need not speak. Jesus need not explain. Jesus need not respond or reply.
Right before their very eyes was Heaven in Person. Right before them was the Life and the Resurrection, Jesus our Lord! And right before us in the humdrum of our lives, in the celebration of the sacraments, in all our fears and anxieties, in all our problems and questions, is the answer: the Son of Living God.
The poet Seneca said that the day, which we fear as our last, is but the birthday of eternity. Love and live every moment, then. Hope that Jesus will allow us to join Him and his company of saints. And most of all, Pray that when we face our good Lord one day, we are ready. From death, He will raise us up.
7 November 2010