What do you think about the idea of heaven?
In Jesus’s time, people were of different minds about this question. Some, like the Sadducees, didn’t believe in resurrection from the dead, while others weren’t so categorical in their dismissal of the idea of an afterlife. In this week’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus is challenged on this point. His response is to remind his listeners that God is not God of the dead, but of the living. So we are justified, Jesus suggests, if we live in fidelity to the covenant, like Moses in this life – if we do, we will be the children of God, those who will rise. Heaven, in other words, is within our grasp, as is salvation, so long as we remain faithful, alive in God’s love, here and now.
The first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees holds a similar lesson: those who remain faithful to the covenant – like the seven brothers who refuse to eat pork and transgress the laws of their ancestors – value and hold fast to their relationship with God. The martyrdom of the seven brothers gives witness to their identity, and the text goes so far as to suggest that they will be rewarded for their suffering, because of the hope God gives of being raised up by him. Likewise, the psalmist, unjustly accused, recognizes that because he has been true to God, he will in justice behold the face of God (Psalm 17).
For Christians, the source of such faith – the source of our strength and identity – lies in Christ, as Paul reminds the Thessalonians. We know we are his, we know that he has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope. Such love can only encourage us to be faithful in this life, ever seeking greater relationship with God, salvation here and now, and to have confidence in a future to be spent in perfect union with God. And that’s heaven.
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.