Sometimes people ask me what is a typical day like for me. Honestly, each day is different As a priest, I have a wonderful life. I always say that it is a great adventure in God. There are often things that I experience that I never would have believed when I was in seminary. Just the other day, I went to a nursing home to anoint a parishioner. In the hallway there was a worker who saw me in my Roman collar and asked are you a real priest? I said well yes I am. Have you never met a real priest? She said no I’ve only seen them on TV and in the movies. So I stopped and talked to her. What kind of shirt do you have? (Take out the plastic collar and show the people.) I explained how the shirt collar is made to receive the plastic tab. You never know what people are needing, and this was one of those divine encounters. Over the course of the conversation, she told me that her teenage son had died in a car accident just over a year ago. She asked what we Catholics believe happens after death. I simply stated that we believe in the resurrection …that we will follow where Jesus has gone. But what that exactly is, we do not know for sure. We talked a little bit about the resurrection appearances of Jesus in the gospel… That he still had the wounds from his crucifixion. But he was able to transcend time and space. I told her that many people who have lost loved ones sometimes experience their presence that gives them comfort and peace and an assurance that they are OK. This woman said that she had grown up Baptist. She heard a lot of threats of going to hell if you were not saved and lived a good life. She also said that she had a dream where her son appeared to her and that dream did indeed give her a peace about her son.
This brings me to the Gospel debate that Jesus is having with a group of Jewish scholars called the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
By asking the question about a wife whose seven husbands die, the Sadducees are ridiculing the resurrection and trying to trap Jesus. Jesus affirms the resurrection of the dead and indicates what it will not be like with marrying and remarrying. He also indicates what resurrection will be like saying that those souls that attain the resurrection of the dead can no longer die, for they are like angels. It is a completely different plane of existence.
How we live now in the midst of human history and how we live in the next life will be different. Beyond that statement, we do not know how it will happen.
Some of us fear death because we are like the Sadducees who do not believe that there is anything on the other side of death.
I look at the entire created world and see the same pattern of life, death, and new life. We see the plants and trees going through a death at this time of year. We know that in the spring there will be new life. Whenever I celebrate a funeral mass, I say the words that life is not ended but it is changed. And that our faith gives us assurance that we will see our loved one who has died again.
Why did God make it this way? I do not know. I have to live in faith just like all of you. We live in faith and we also live in hope. I believe that this woman’s son is still alive. I believe that those whose funerals I have celebrated are still alive in a way that I cannot understand now. Where are they alive, and what way are they alive… That is left up to God.
Jesus said: he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." It is very clear from our gospel today that Jesus believes in eternal life. Resurrection is something that we cannot prove, but it is something that we can believe with faith, and we can trust in it. With faith, we cannot understand and at some level we can understand. We have knowing without perfectly knowing. And we allow our loving God to fill in the gaps.