A question we all tend to ask ourselves from time to time is, “where is all this going?” Throughout my life, in work situations, in relationships, I try to keep in mind the desired final outcome and how that should influence my current behavior. Our religion is like that, God has a plan. God has a plan for human history and for each of our lives. The fancy word for reflecting on God’s plan is Eschatology; what does God tell us about death, judgment, heaven, and hell? This Sunday (32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time November 10, 2019) we hear about the resurrection which, of course, implies death and final judgment. The teaching is that we all die, a simple fact, and at the end of time Christ will return and we all get our bodies back. Of course, there is a lot more to this, for example, God’s judgment of our lives. One important aspect of the resurrection that Christ describes (Luke 20:27 – 38) is that death is not the end. In fact, our faith tells us that everyone has eternal life, the questions is, “how will we spend eternity?”
We should believe in the resurrection since Christ describes it, but that may not happen for a while, days, years, centuries, we don’t know. A reasonable question is, “what does this teaching tell me about the here and now?” Most importantly, as I said before, death is not the end. Our lives and the lives of people we care about matter, not just today, yesterday and tomorrow, but for all time. This is a source of hope for us. In November the Church calls us to think about the important people in our lives who have died. They have not ceased to exist. We hope and pray that their souls are with God. In fact, the Church teaches that the saints in heaven know what we are doing and care about us. In fact, the souls in heaven are around the altar with us at every Mass. There is a prayer during Mass called the Preface that introduces the Eucharistic Prayer. The Preface is the part that says, “…Lift up your hearts…” At the end of the Preface, right before the consecration, we say something like, “…with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory…” (Common Preface I).
I hope all of us have people in our lives that inspire us by their Christian witness. Some of them are older than we are. Sadly, some of those people in our lives have died. Our belief is that they are in heaven with God and are our cheering squad. How do we respond to their prayers and intercession? Our hope for eternal life in heaven and resurrection, logically, should influence our lives here and now. However, our awareness of our supporters in heaven should also be a motivation, here and now, to focus on what God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ. God crafted human beings to need authentic relationships. That is who we are. That is why we still care about our loved ones who have died, and why they care about us. The reality of the future resurrection is the reality of their, and our, eternal life.
Our life right now, our decisions and actions are important. Our eternal life began when we were conceived in our mother’s womb. We are forming that life right now. Christ came into the world to help us come to have eternal life with Him. We have access to reconciliation with God only through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We need to remember that we go to Mass on Sunday because the Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross (CCC 1365 – 1367, Council of Trent (1562): DS 1740; cf. 1 Cor 11:23; Heb 7:24, 27). By God’s generous gift we are able here and now to determine how we spend the eternal life God has given us.