Walking home after a late party one dark night, two young men decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery. Drawing close to the middle of the cemetery, they were startled by a sharp tapping noise coming from the shadows.
As they approaching, trembling, they found an old man with a hammer and chisel, chipping away at one of the headstone.
One of them said, “Geez! You scared us half to death, mister!”
The one guy asked. “What are you doing, working here so late at night?”
“Oh, it’s those fools!” the old man grumbled. “They misspelled my name.”
- Do you believe in life after death?
- What is it like?
- How can we get there?
We are hearing about death every day. The earthquake in Haiti earlier this year killed thousands of people. Volcano, tsunami and flooding killed hundreds of people in Indonesia and in Asia. Is there difference between the death of a human person and the death of an animal, a chicken or a cow? We, Christians, believe there is a difference.
In 2007, the AARP Magazine did a study to find out what Americans in the second half of life think about life after death.
Many people believe there will be sex in the afterlife. It’ll be pleasurable, less dangerous, and it won’t be physical, but spiritual. The survey also shows the richer people are, the less likely they are to believe there’s a heaven. Among those with a household income of $75,000 or more per year, 78% believe in heaven, compared to 90% of those earning $25,000 or less. 77% of college educated thinks there is a Heaven, compared with 89% of those who have a high school diploma or less.[i]
As a priest, I enjoy visiting the elderly people at their homes or in the nursing homes. These elderly cannot come to church anymore due to their health conditions. When I enter their rooms I am able to tell immediately that they are Catholics. I see either a Crucifix, a Rosary, a prayer book, a copy of the Bible, or a picture of Jesus and Mary or sometime all of those religious symbols. I could feel their faith and serenity. They always appreciate to have someone from the church to visit them. They show special joy to receive Holy Communion. Sometimes they want to make confessions and receiving the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
Recently I went to the hospital to see Mrs. Marth Semiec. She was in the ICU and in critical condition. She was awake, and I was not sure if she was ready for me to give her the last rite. I asked her, “Martha, are you afraid to die?” She surprised me with her response, “Father, I don’t know why God still wants me to be here?” Once she said that, I felt relief to administer the Last Rite for her. It is always a blessing to meet faithful Catholic people like her. There is no fear in the hearts of those who believe in God and have faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
In Jesus’ day, there was a group called Sadducee who did not believe in resurrection or life after death. They had heard about Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection and life after death. So they decided to discredit Jesus and his teaching. They posed a hypothetical question about a woman who was married to seven husbands. In heaven, whose husband will she be? To them this was a question that pointed out the total absurdity of the thought of an afterlife. They wanted to make Jesus look like a fool. But Jesus said they were wrong. Their mistake was to think the doctrine of the resurrection means that people will rise to live a life identical to the one they possessed before they died. That was worldly thinking. They were so emerged in this worldy life; and they could not think beyond. Jesus corrected their misguided thinking.
The fact that there is no marriage in heaven may be good or bad news depending upon the state of one’s marriage. Some might say, “Thanks God!” Some might say, “There is no fun!” But why there is not marriage in heaven?
Heaven is retirement without financial needs; no medicare. There will be no need for healthcare reform. There will be no cemetery. We will live as children of God.
Think of the concept of being a child. When I watched the children playing and running around in the front of the church, I notice that they are care free. They play, the eat food their parents give them, then they go home and go to bed. They let their parents take care of them and all their needs. Even when they are at church, they cry and their parents are embarrassed, but they don’t worry about it. They are just free and enjoy themselves. In heaven we will be children of God. God will take care of everything for us. It is only joy and fun and true freedom! There will be no deadlines to meet, no weddings to attend, no funeral to mourn and grief.
According to the study of the AARP Magazine, most Americans believe they will be saved no matter what they are. In the survey, 88% of the people believe they will be in Heaven after they die, but they are not so sure about the rest of others.
Based on Jesus’ words, not everyone will get to heaven, but only “Those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead.”
The first reading from the book of Maccabees, the seven brothers and their mother gave impressive testimony to their faith in the resurrection of the body. The mother of these seven boys had done a great job of raising her sons. They chose to be faithful to God’s laws rather than to conform to the worldly powers. They confessed their faith in God and in the resurrection without fear:
A Massachusetts family was on a sight-seeing tour of the Grand Canyon, and as the little group stood looking down at the great wonder of nature, a 9 years-old boy turned to his father with a half-frightened expression on the face.
“Dad,” he said, “I get a funny feeling looking at all this. It makes me think how big the world is and how small I am.”
“Son,” his father answered, “you’re only a boy, but you are greater than the whole universe. You know you exist. The universe does not know it exists. You’ve got a soul.”[ii]
One day, St. Catherine of Siena was meditating on the love of Jesus for us poor sinners, she was deeply moved. She could not understand how Jesus could endure such terrible sufferings for such wretched creatures. Jesus appeared to her and showed her the beauty of a soul in sanctifying grace. He said, “Behold, was it not worthwhile to live and to suffer and to die for such a beautiful thing?”[iii]
We all have souls. Our souls are beautiful and will live forever. So it is always wise to take care of our souls.