Don't Give Them Reason To Worry When You're Gone
Fifth Sunday of Lent (A)
Scripture Readings: Ezra 37:12-14; Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; Romans 8:8-11
My dear encountered couples:
We all believe in life after death. When those we love die, we believe that they are not really dead but that they continue to live on forever. And we pray that where they are doing that living is where we call heaven.
But how so very often we wish they were back with us. Jesus brought Lazurus back to his sisters; why couldn’t he bring Jim or John or Mary Jo back to you? Jesus wanted to show us that he is truly the “resurrection and the life,” not only for us, but for those we love. And that was the purpose of Jesus raising Lazurus from the dead.
By raising Lazurus Jesus is showing us what is happening to those we love when they die. Jesus is saying to them: “Jim, John, Mary Jo, come forth!” And they do come forth, from their bodies, to take the hand of Jesus and go with him into heaven.
We couldn’t want anything better for them, could we? No matter how happy we might have made them in our world, Jesus makes them infinitely happier in his. That thought should help to make us happy for them. True love is directed towards the good of the one we love; it is not concerned with what we might prefer for ourselves.
But there is one thing that worries us, isn’t there? “Is the person I love really in heaven, or where?” We believe in life after death, we believe those we love live on forever, we believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. But is Jim or John or Mary Jo in heaven or not? And so we pray that they are, and try to believe they are, as much as we can. But often, the wondering lingers on. We remember an imperfection or two that Jim and John and Mary Jo had. They were good people, but were they good enough to be in heaven now, at this very moment?
Let me assure you of this: ONLY THE TOTALLY EVIL GO TO HELL. Hell is where the devil and his kind are - those who totally, of their own free will, reject God and his love. Whereas heaven is for those who totally, of their own free will, accept God and his love. That leaves us with an in-between condition, doesn’t it? That leaves us with what we call Purgatory.
Purgatory is looked upon as a place or a condition in which those who love God, at least somewhat when they die, will be able to arrive at the totality of loving God. And between you and me, I don’t think that would take very long. For when we leave this earth and our bodies we will experience such a tremendous love coming to us from God that we will not even desire for a moment to resist his love. We will be so caught up in his love and beauty and goodness that our entire selves will love him in return. We will quickly and gladly, without hesitation turn our backs on all things that keep us from God and fall in love with him with our entire being.
Those who have any love for God when they die will assuredly be open to accept all the love he offers and then love him in return. Their love for God will become perfect and total, probably much more quickly than those who fall in love with just one glance across a crowded room.
But we still wonder and worry about those we love who have died, don’t we? Let us use some of that wondering and worrying to move us to do what we can for those who love us - for those we leave behind.
To keep those who love us from worrying and fretting when we’re gone, we could begin today improving our love for God. We could improve our behavior and treat people better than we have been. We could show by our lives that we are trying our best to love God with our whole hearts. Then, when our turn comes to leave our bodies, (when we croak), those who love us can be sure we went to heaven. We’ll cause them less grief than maybe if we died today.
Not a bad idea. Our love for God can be proved and improved today and tomorrow and the next day by caring for people and God’s creation more so than we did yesterday. Our improved and continuous caring actions can help to prove to those we leave behind that we died with a lot of love in us for God and his people.
“Lord, if you had been here,” sobbed Martha, “my brother would not have died.” “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus assured her. “I know he will rise again,” Martha replied, “in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her: “I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.”
“Lazurus, come forth!” The dead man came out to live again. SO WILL ALL OF US WHO LOVE GOD!