What do you think happens when we die?
I know, that can be a depressing topic – death. But as our Liturgical year begins the movement to its end (the new Liturgical Year begins with Advent – the four weeks in anticipation of Christmas), the readings on all the last Sundays of the Liturgical Year begin to look at the end times.
This Sunday’s Gospel from Luke focuses on the Resurrection and what it means. Jesus encounters the Sadducees who did not believe in resurrection – an afterlife.
As our Deacon Ted Pijacki has humorously pointed out, the Sadducees were “sad you see” because they didn't believe in the Resurrection.
Do you get it? Sadducees is pronounced like “sad-you-seas.” LOL
So, do you believe in an afterlife?
My experience has been that most folks avoid thinking about it until someone close to them approaches death or dies. That is when we often have to come to terms with what we believe about our purpose and the meaning of life.
I’ve always wondered where the source of hope was for those who do not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life in the Light and Love of God that awaits you and I as promised to us by Jesus Christ.
And even if someone doesn’t believe in our Christian understanding that death is not the end of us – that of our soul’s relationship with the Love of God – if they at least believe in some afterlife, I figure that is better than believing that this life on Earth is all that we have.
Scholars have pointed out that because the Sadducees didn’t believe in an afterlife, it gave them a sense of permission to only focus on their material gain on Earth.
And why not? If there is only this relatively short life span for us on Earth and nothing after our death, then they thought we should live for only ourselves today. One might as well increase one’s personal well-being and look out only for oneself before it all ends.
So, for the Sadducees, any wealth they accumulated was viewed by them as their reward in life for being righteous. Unfortunately, their self-serving ways enabled them to ignore the poor and suffering who to the Sadducees were viewed as being punished for somehow not being righteous.
Belief in an afterlife connected to God might probably change that equation as well as offer hope.
For as those of us who know and believe in our common Creator, God, in whom we are all connected to one another through God in love, peace, and justice (for us Catholics, we are connected to each soul throughout time by our Communion in the Eucharist); and our trust in our God’s promise of life everlasting of our souls that transcends our time on Earth – for us, our response to this connected reality, therefore, is to love and care for each other, especially the least among us.
This peace, love, and justice – this Communion of Saints - is what will be the hallmark of our life with God in the hereafter.
For it is the Love of God, as identified by the Covenant relationship between God and God’s people (you and me) – and as solidified and made real in the Birth, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ - this is what will endure even after life on Earth as we know it comes to an end.
Therefore, our hope stems from our belonging to one another and our shared destiny for eternal life in communion with God’s Love.
So, while you and I are alive on Earth, now is the time for us to build relationships that will continue beyond this world’s existence into the next in Heaven, where you and I will be judged by God, not by our wealth, education, or social status – but by our commitment to our relationship with each other as sisters and brothers by our striving for justice and offering love.
What happens after we die is ultimately a mystery. But what isn’t a mystery is that the Love of God, alive in our hearts/our souls, will continue forever in the fullness of joy.
That is the source of my hope. I hope it is yours too. And if it isn’t – if you are "sad like the Sadducees" - and you would like to live in the hope and love of Christ, then please let me know. We at UB Catholic Campus Ministry are here for you to help you on our spiritual journey.
May God bless you with Peace and All Good.