We live in a troubled world. We see in is war and terrorism, shootings in schools and marketplaces. There is starvation and homelessness. There are the unemployed and those who fear losing their jobs. The list could go on.
In the midst of our troubles, we hear Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, that God gives us “everlasting encouragement” because He loves us. Through his grace, He encourages our hearts and strengthens them.
What we are talking about here is “hope”. God gives us hope.
Hope changes the way we look at things.
We see this in the first reading. Seven brothers along with their mother had been arrested. They were Jews who refused to worship the false gods of the king. They were tortured and the king tried “tried to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.”
Their response? “We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”
What gives them the courage to say and do this?
Hope! Hope that they have because they believe in the resurrection. They refer to being “raised up” twice and of the “Resurrection to life.” They know that there is life after death in this world, so they choose to follow God over life in this world.
The Sadducees, “who deny that there is a Resurrection,” come to Jesus with a question about the Resurrection. What they are really trying to do is to trap Jesus and prove the idea of resurrection is absurd.
First, we should realize why they do not believe in resurrection and why they are wrong. The Sadducees only believe what can be found in the first five book of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – all attributed to Moses). You will not find any mention of resurrection in those books. Well, you won’t find the word “resurrection” anyway.
I say the word because Jesus shows where the concept of resurrection can be found in Exodus. Moses is in dialogue with God and his people. God is identified as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob and he is not God of the dead, but of the living.”
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all long since dead in earthly terms but they are still part of God’s people. They are still living, just not in this earthly world. There is the concept of “Resurrection”. Thus, resurrection theology is found in the Torah, the five books of Moses.
The Sadducees want to show that the idea of resurrection is absurd. They attempt to do so by describing this situation of seven brothers dying, having all married the same woman. They ask Jesus, “Now at the Resurrection, whose wife will she be?”
The problem is that they are only seeing the Resurrection as a continuation of life in this world. Jesus tells us that Heaven is different speaking of those in the coming age, saying they “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” This is not to say that people won’t care about their spouses in Heaven. God is love. There will be infinite love in Heaven, just not new marriages.
So what is Heaven like?
You can find images in the Book of Revelation about what Heaven will be like. There are some powerful images of the heavenly banquet in the Book of Revelation. There are also images that we struggle to understand.
People will describe Heaven in different ways. Some speak of blue sky, white puffy clouds, and angels flying around. Others describe as being where they spend their time doing their favorite thing.
The reality is why don’t know exactly what Heaven will be like. We often describe it in terms of physical things because that’s what we relate to as embodied beings.
What we do know is that in Heaven we will be with God. Is that not what we seek?
With that in mind, when we talk about Heaven, ultimately, we are talking about being with God. There I turn to a quote I read this week from St. Augustine, “We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand?” We can’t expect to fully understand Heaven right now.
What we can do is trust God. God is the one who so loved the world that He gave his only Son. Jesus hanging on the Cross is a symbol of God’s absolute love for us.
Jesus died for us.
Jesus revealed himself to us after his Resurrection so that we might know what it means to rise body and soul. Jesus did all this so that we would have hope.
Whatever trouble or suffering you face in this world, know that God is with you. Remember that Jesus suffered. We have a God who knows what it means to suffer. We have a God who will always be with us.
People spend a lot of time trying to find happiness in this world with money, power, and prestige. These things might mean a lot in this world but they mean nothing in Heaven. We are created to be with God. Think of the responsorial psalm verse, “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.” That’s Heaven.
For now, we may not understand our troubles and sufferings. So, we rely on the hope Jesus gives us.