Last Sunday we heard God addressed as ‘Lover of life’ - the one who does not destroy anything in creation.
The readings today deal with the theme of 'ETERNAL LIFE'. In the first reading the sons of the Maccabees say: ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at the hands of people, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him.’
Psalm 16 ‘I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory.’
And Jesus' response to the Sadducees who say there is no resurrection: ‘Now he is God , not of the dead but of the living; for to Him, all people are in fact alive’.
Many attempts have been made to describe the afterlife and some have spoken of near-death experiences but the fact is, we don’t know what it will be like and we tend to fear what we do not know.
John Sheahan of the Dubliners (some will remember) was interviewed by Gay Byrne about his life and faith. Asked what he thinks heaven will be like he said. ‘I’m a music man and I tend to think in those terms. I see heaven as a wonderful symphony. Those who have the capacity to enjoy it to the full will have the front seats. Those with lesser capacity and understanding will be back a bit but will enjoy to the fullness of their capacity. And so on'. Gay comes in with ‘What about the baddies?' ‘They will be there but because they have not developed the capacity to understand and enjoy they will have no idea what is going on and be totally frustrated.’
I like the image, and the challenge it holds to develop our capacity to the fullest.
It echoes the challenge of Jesus to ‘be alive’ - something he lived out and taught by his own human experience. His capacity to celebrate at wedding feasts and with tax collectors, to weep over his friend Lazarus, to express righteous anger at the misuse of the Temple, his concern for the hungry crowd, his restoring life and health to so many, his calling a deranged man ‘out of the tombs’. And above all, by his own rising from the dead.
Living life fully will have its challenges and we may be tempted to settle for an easier way.
Really believing in something gives us courage when put to the test. What kind of courage might it call on us today? Is there anything big enough for me to stand up and defend and even to die for like the sons of the Maccabees did?
I worked for some years with students in a missionary congregation who were preparing for final commitment and Diaconate ordination. During the commitment ceremony they were asked ‘Are you ready to face death?' Their ‘I am’ was a very solemn moment and indeed one of them was murdered because of his stand for justice just a year after ordination.
So we are not just talking about the past. The call to live fully and give everything to what we believe in, is now.
Nor is Resurrection something only in a future reality. We experience resurrection when we are open to the mystery of God in our lives
when we take time to find that abundant life within ourselves
when we overcome fear and struggle to make things better
when hope overcomes despair.
when love overcomes hate
when we let go of bitterness and forgive
when we are in harmony with the natural world.