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11/6/2013 1:45:00 PM
What Will Heaven Be Like?

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Nov. 10, 2013
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Luke 20:27-38 or 20:27, 34-38

If there is a month that reminds us that we will die, it is surely November. The leaves have fallen and the days are becoming shorter. Darkness surrounds us. All Souls Day is a poignant reminder of those who have preceded us in death. The message is clear: “You too shall die.” Even as children, we redirected any talk of death by inquiries about heaven. Would we have ice cream? Would our dogs be there? All our conversations about an afterlife were cast in concrete, earthly terms.

The question posed in the Gospel by the Sadducees seems much the same. At first sight, the Gospel does not seem to be about death. The question brought to Jesus concerns the nature of the afterlife. The case they posed was a ridiculous one based on a practice found in the Old Testament. When a man died, his brother would be obliged to marry his childless widow to continue the dead brother’s lineage even after his death. The Sadducees asked to whom the widow would be married in the afterlife? They were not really interested in the resurrection. In fact, they did not believe in the resurrection at all. The Sadducees, although they were rivals to the Pharisees, were united with them in their opposition to Jesus. The question was posed to bolster their disbelief in the resurrection and to trap Jesus. Jesus avoids their trap by demonstrating their failure to understand the resurrection. Resurrection life is different from life here and now.

Someday, perhaps today--like the Sadducees in today’s Gospel--we will ask questions about the resurrection with new interest. These were men who did not believe in the resurrection. I wonder if—as they thought of their own deaths—they held a secret hope that Jesus could convince them to believe. There are people like these all over the world—non-believers who look to us for hope.

We gather at today’s Eucharist united in the belief we have in the resurrection—Jesus’ resurrection and our own. We look to the time when our faith will be tested by the fact that death is near. We are a people who believe we will have new life. We are a community called to bring faith to those who have not yet met the Lord in their own lives.

The message of hope we bring to the altar today is the same faith we bring to those we meet in the business world, the supermarket, and on the highway. They look to us to give them hope for their future. We give them hope by the way we live today.

Christians surely ought to love life. The resurrection will bring us more of that precious gift. This is the gift for which we give thanks and praise today.

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