This belief is comforting and gives us all hope for ourselves and our loved ones.

11-06-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

I suspect there are more images in our minds and in art of what heaven is than there are people on earth. When we think about heaven most of us project our desires of emotional well-being, beauty or human comfort or perhaps whatever we feel we need that is missing in our lives. Starving people or people who live on the level of bare subsistence, often envisioned heaven as a giant feast with an excess of wonderful food. For those who have felt they are alone and endure the pains of loneliness, they often envision heaven as a great multitude of people altogether as close companions. Some call heaven a “Garden of Paradise”; I suspect most of these folks probably had endured emotionally painful lives, experienced excess drought or lived in a desert like area. There are so many images of heaven, even some which stand in contrast to each other. There are many images of heaven, but the one reality which people who believe in heaven have is that it actually exists beyond the grave, after the death of a person.

Are you aware that when Jesus lived in Israel that life after death was a greatly disputed question? In our Gospel passage from Luke, we learn that the Sadducees were a learned and august group of men who adhered to a strict interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were seen as the priestly aristocracy that was in very close association with the Temple. The Sadducees considered the Torah as the only definitive Scripture. They did not hold at all to a life after death, nor did they have a messianic doctrine as an article of belief.

Jesus was viewed by the Sadducees as an obstruction and a problem. They wanted to defeat his arguments and make Him just another odd thinking man. They tried to use a thought process based on the Sacred Scripture, the Torah and Law that would make his statements empty of meaning and value. Their example of issue of a brother having to marry a multiple widowed sister-in-law really was addressing the hidden issue that one’s future was only in one’s children as there was nothing after death. This example reinforced the notion that there is no afterlife for an-yone. The Sadducees used this foolish and extreme example and thought they would be right because it was strictly logical. Jesus responds by using logic by speaking about God being the God of the Living, even though the three great Patriarchs were dead. And thus he concluded they are still alive beyond their physical death. They are with our eternal God.

Note that Jesus does not spend time describing what heaven is like, except to claim that it is more like the life of the angels, whatever that exactly means. It certainly means that these angelic spirits endure though out all of time.

In this Season of Remembrance of our “beloved deceased”, it is always good to find comfort that they are in heaven at peace and safe with our God. We may not know exactly what this all means in terms of details, but this belief is comforting and gives us all hope for ourselves and our loved ones.