On the Easter Promise we share with those in heaven…

There are many points we share in common with those who are now in heaven…

As we celebrate the Easter season, we who are still journeying to heaven, are celebrating and giving thanks for the gift of faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.   We are also celebrating the gift of hope, first revealed in and by Jesus, of God’s Promise to give his children eternal life in the Kingdom. Our yearly celebration of Easter is joined by those now in heaven, who are endlessly praising and worshipping God in both spirit and in truth.

What are the saints celebrating in heaven?  Well, unlike ourselves, they are now celebrating the experience and reward of eternal life and Glory with the Triune God!!! Yes, they are basking in True Easter Glory each heavenly moment….

Their real experiencing of heavenly joy and its rewards is not the only difference between their celebration in heaven and ours down here… Perhaps the biggest difference between the two celebrations is that here on earth, our Easter celebrations are made possible only by our faith in and hope for God’s grace in the Risen Christ!

Yes, the saints in heaven have shared this common human experience of living by faith and hope during their lives.   However, unlike we who still possess a living faith that is active and growing by grace, those in heaven no longer have any need for either faith or hope!  Their faith and hope has been tested, made pure and is now realized, complete and is made manifest in heaven.

Since all heavenly citizens both walk and stand face to face with God, they have no faith or hope anymore!!! In light of this divine reality that we still hold only by grace and faith, what scriptural Promise can I possibly be talkin’ bout in this essay’s title?

What scriptural Promise awaits both the heaven bound and the saints in heaven?

Perhaps, NOW you get it and you say, WAIT!!!! What ‘kinda foolishness’ did you just read? What could anyone in heaven want for? What can they possibly want for and/or anticipate?  How can one in heaven still await any Promise from God?

Well…

It is an interesting question whose answer ultimately rests in a few key scriptural beliefs, teachings and Promises of God.   First: All that God creates was and is good, however ‘the Fall’ negatively impacted both our humanity and all of creation.   Second: God created us as integrated beings, composed of a unified body and spirit.   Third: Jesus’ Death and Resurrection saves our whole being: body, soul/spirit…

This last scriptural point is so important, that the Gospel’s post resurrection narratives continually drives it home in different ways…  For example Jesus just doesn’t appear once and then leave, he kind of ‘hangs around’ to complete and confirm His teaching as the Christ before his ascending to the Father. He eats with the Apostles, drinks with them and even tells doubting Thomas to put his hands into His side and into nails marks, so he may believe that, it is in fact Jesus in body and Spirit.

Returning to our reflection about those who are now in heaven and the Promise we share with them… What divine Promise can possibly remain unfulfilled for them?  What is it and when will they (and we) FINALLY get it?

All of us in heaven will get it on the Last Day…  And that final Promise is to be like Jesus: fully Resurrected in both body and spirit!

Please note: The Last Day is NOT to be confused with the particular judgment, which is what happens on our particular day of death, when we are individually judged.

Classically, The Last Day is the End of All Time when all the souls that have lived on earth will rise again and receive our resurrected bodies for eternity.  For the literal, scientific and hardcore historically minded, this will be sometime around 5 billion years from now when our sun begins to supernova (assuming we have not destroyed ourselves before then).

But if the futurist in you believes and asks, “… but when we develop sci-fi like tech and can leave our galaxy to escape elsewhere at light years speed as we explore the universe (the movies come true)… when will time ‘end” then? Okaaaaaay! …Only since you force me to, I’ll digress and address that side of you…

Well assuming that you also then believe humans will live for millennia in the universe…   Then as science now reveals, the universe will end eventually one day – perhaps when all galaxies have expanded infinitely far away from each other and every star has burned out –  then, natural time will end.   At that time, there will be no more new  planets to find and inhabit.  In fact, even BBC’s television character and alien Dr. Who would have to die and be judged  at this time, for there will be no more physical bodies   – literally ‘nothing else’ – for even him to change into (lol)!!!  This is my best articulation about the Last Day’s actual historicity. Anyway…

At that time – the end of all time – we will receive the full fruits of Resurrected Life, receiving our risen bodies, like Jesus Himself!!!! This is the Final Promise that we share with all those who are in heaven now.

If I’m correct, then the saints here on earth and those in heaven – and at all points in between – are all still longing for this one scriptural Promise: to experience that eternal reuniting of our then holy souls/spirits with our resurrected bodies. If Jesus’ Resurrection in the Gospels reveals anything, it reveals that we will be as He is and thus, this Promised reunion is as real and grounded in God’s love as is the heavenly community we will already be in.

This ‘Last Day Reunion’ will be infinitely more than just a return to that ‘harmony between the spirit and flesh’ that was experienced and lost by Adam and Eve in Paradise.  Please remember, paradise was just a starting point for the first parents: God’s goal for them was/is the same as it is for us; God has not changed.

God has always desired and planned the same thing from all eternity: that His children will live with Him and each other in love – for all eternity – in body and spirit.

It could be no other way, especially since all that God created is truly good and holy and Jesus’ sacrifice redeemed all of us – body, spirit and soul.  This is the Final Promise that God will fulfill and the only Promise that the saints in heaven still await.

…But their wait is not one of hope or faith as is ours; they know that it is a fact as they now stand before our Lord and King.

Let us – by grace – pray, work, serve and love as God wills us to that we may one day join the Saints in heaven, awaiting God’s final Promise…

What will the Resurrected Life be like, according to Scripture?

Presented to: St. Thomas the Apostle

For: 2017 Lenten Series: The Ten Minute Catechism

Topic: On the Resurrection of the Dead

 

Scripture on the Resurrection[1]

When it comes to the topic of the resurrection and the resurrected life – life in heaven – we all share the same amount of experience regarding it: absolutely zero!!!…   So, given our ignorance, where can we turn for an accurate account that can lead us to clues as to what the resurrected life is like? There is only one source that I’m aware, and it is Scripture! Let us turn to the Gospel readings for (2017) for guidance, as we try to list five keys explaining what life in heaven will be like.

No. 1     2nd Week of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday – Gospel Jn 20:109-31: the risen Christ meets the apostles in the upper room and gives them his Divine Peace…

Peace – This is the 1rst fndatin of RL… reflect on the moment in your life when you’ve experienced real peace… Perhaps moments with your family or children… Moments with significant others on vacation away from it all… Perhaps it’s that uncommon moment on a spring walk or the peace that you unexpectedly finding a hectic day when you slow down to pray…

… These are all very real moments, but are only moment or tastes – that reflect THAT ETERNAL and everlasting peace that passes all understanding… that Peace we are promised in the resurrected life in heaven.

No. 2 and 3. In that same Gospel when Jesus appeared, Thomas was initially absent… …the Gospel famously concludes with Jesus asking him to place his fingers in His holy wounds… …this points us to the 2nd key aspect of the Resurrected Life: Certainty – absolute and beyond all doubt!!! In heaven, we will have absolute certainty about those life ‘fundamentals’ that like truth, love, etc… In life, our best instances of certainty are like those of our greatest and deepest experiences of peace – but mere moments and partial reflections of that pure, absolute and never ending certainty we will experience in heaven…

Love – this is the third key I’m listing but it actually can be stated as the first of them all! Love is the core of God’s Kingdom and the Resurrected Life; this teaching can be found throughout Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of God before his death and resurrection. It is also manifested as the core of the Risen Lord in the Resurrection accounts of the Gospels.

The reality of Divine Certainty of God’s Peace & Everlasting Love forever – is simply humanly unfathomable…   We only experience glimpses or reflections of the realities now on earth, but these moments can, if held and experienced with a grateful and prayerful heart, lead us to the truth about eternal life.

Please note how each one of these key aspects of the Resurrected Life (Peace, Certainty and Love) are rooted in what we discussed last week Ten Minute Catechism: God’s Presence! In God’s heavenly Presence, there will no longer be any need for faith or for hope, because our greatest faith and hope will be eternally realized. Only love remains…    The pure and holy love of God – which will light both God’s Kingdom and the hearts of its inhabitants…

In Week 3 of Easter, in the Road to Emmaus from Luke’s Gospel (Lk 24:13-35), Jesus reveals who will be in the Kingdom Resurrected Life: those who do not flee from their fears or their crosses, but who, through communion with the Risen Christ finds the grace and strength to turn around, and to return to Jerusalem and Calvary…

Those who choose to pick up their crosses… Those who choose to be Simon of Cyrenes for others, by willfully carrying the crosses of others that have been placed on them, especially those who have fallen down like Jesus, after he fell for the third time, completely exhausted and was unable to continue carrying the wood of our salvation 3rd time…

No. 4 and 5.     All of the Resurrection narratives point to two final key Roman Catholic beliefs about the Resurrected Life: a). the actual physicality of the Resurrected Life and b). the community dimensions of the Resurrected Life. Regarding the physicality of it, examine how Jesus asked Doubting Thomas to “stick his hands into the nail and lance wounds that He received during the crucifixtion. Find the Gospel story where the Risen Christ eats fish with the eleven Apostles, etc. These stories are presented for a reason: if the Risen Christ was just a vision, it have been a false apparition by one of Satan’s demons, etc. By resurrecting in His same body, Jesus seals and confirms both the scriptural teaching that the human being is an integrated and living spirit within living flesh, who will rise in the same manner on the last day. Finally, the resurrected life is not an individual experience of ourselves eternally in ecstacy, gazing in awe of God. It is a community experience of the saved who are praising, serving and fellowshipping with God and each other in perfect harmony.

A Quick Summary to the Resurrected Life –

It is a state in which the saved will experience absolute and everlasting…

Peace, Certainty and Love, which are all grounded in God’s Presence

 

It is a perfected physical/spiritual state where we live in a holy community with the Eternal and   living God.

 

[1] I am using the Gospels from the second, third and forth weeks of the 2017 Easter Season Readings as my scriptural basis for this reflection.

What To Do When Easter Comes Early!

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Upon entering this second week of Lent, we at the Strugglin’Catholic wanted to slow down a bit to address an uncanny and often rare Lenten challenge that some can attest to: living/doing Lent when Easter has already come for you that year!    Occasionally, as the Strugglin’ Catholic strives to live and do Lent over the years, she may encounter a break from the Lenten routine of suffering and discipline, as God’s grace blesses her with an early Easter and an apparent “holy waiver for Lent” that year… As we enter the dog days winter and Lent, let’s remind ourselves of these rare occasions and also how we can better respond to them in our lives.   What are some ‘common examples’ of an Early Easter event in the lives of our family and friends?

 

Examples abound, including the birth of a new child, being restored to health after years of suffering, getting the financial aid/grants/scholarships to go to school, a new job, getting married, finding one’s first home or the right retirement community, changing a career path, finding new love, celebrating birthday parties, etc.

 

If one prayerfully reviews their life of spring times, most will surely find that a planned or unexpected early Easter Gift has been received at some point in one’s life. The Grace and Joy of these sacred periods can make living out a repentant Lenten spirit all but impossible, as one is all aglow with Resurrected Life!

 

For those who are now strugglin’ with the rare challenge of an Early Easter (lol), the Strugglin’ Catholic suggests the following:

… It is okay!!!!! Even though it is Lent, you can go ahead, celebrate and start living in and out of this Rare Gift and New Life!!! But do so moderately and in a manner so as to not hinder or challenge the ongoing spiritual journeys of others for whom Easter is still far off.

… If you feel this Early Easter Gift was long “over due” and has been accomplished by long suffering and perseverance in prayer, that you now commit yourself to pray and live with the same or even greater humility that colored your journey leading up this year’s Easter Gift!

… That you do not abandon this year’s Lenten discipline’s because of the Early Easter Gift received, but rather, after a brief and moderate celebration, that you press the “reset button” and return to some form of Lenten discipline, but now with a renewed focus, attitude or motivation: i.e. returning to morning prayer or daily psalm reading, but now with a new focus on praising or simply being with God, etc. or finding creative ways to tithe with the time, money or talents received from your Early Easter Gift…

 

For the majority of Catholics, who are still journeying towards Easter and New Life this year, the Strugglin’ Catholic suggests…

… That on our Lenten journey, we allow ourselves to see, attend to and celebrate the Early Easters given to us through the lives of our family and friends! It is often easy, during Lent, to miss common opportunities to taste the Easter New Life awaiting us, like at birthday gatherings or reunions (especially if the weather is bad)! Let us anticipate our Easter New Life by strugglin’ to get up and get out, accepting those invitations to gather in God’s Spirit this Lent! In so doing, we will be opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit and letting Its New Life draw us forward to that Easter New Life that is awaiting us.