This month of Nov. is the month of all souls. Every Sunday we rattle off the creed and end our statement of faith with the words, we believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
What do we mean by the Communion of Saints? Fr. Ron Rolheiser describes it this way: We believe that the dead are still alive, still themselves, still living in a conscious and loving relationship with us and with each other. That’s our common concept of heaven and, however simplistic its popular expression is at times, it is wonderfully correct. That’s exactly what Christian faith and Christian dogma, not to mention our deep intuitive experience, invites us to. After death we live on, conscious, self-conscious, in communication with others who have died before us, in communion with those we left behind on earth, and in communion with the divine itself. That’s the Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints.
In death life is changed not ended, when our earthly body turns to dust we gain an everlasting dwell place in heaven where the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard nor has it entered into human mind the things God has prepared for us.
This new life of ours will not be a prolongation of our present earthly existence but it will be a totally new way of existence and there will be no need for the provision to perpetuate the human race – which was the concern of the Sadducees in their attempt to trip up Jesus with their questions.
Our new life with God can only be described in figurative language such as ‘shining stars, clothed in white robes or having a spiritual body.
What will our new life be like? Sometimes when I was called to the hospital for an emergency and arrived after the person died the family could be quite anxious about the spiritual wellbeing of the dead person. The only thing I could say about that was, if you tell me how he/she lived, I’ll tell you how he/she died.
When we think of it, there is not a discontinuity between this life and our afterlife. There is just life, some of it temporal and some of it eternal. In other words the way we live now is the way we will always live. Our present way of living and loving and relating to others is the promise of our eternal destiny.
We can say that God doesn’t lure us with the promise of heaven nor does God threaten us with the threat of hell, we fashion all this for ourselves by the choices we make during our lives.
If we lived our lives carrying for family, friends or strangers in the different ways we feed the hungry whether they hunger for food or acceptance – the ways we quench the thirst of others for water or for love – the ways we cloth people with clothes or with human dignity and respect – the ways we invite people into our homes or our hearts – our attitudes of openness and acceptance of friend or stranger, these will be the same mindset we bring to our lives beyond the grave and we will hearing the welcoming words of Christ – come, for as often as you did these things to one of the least of mine, you did it to me.
If we lived our lives in a ‘me first’ attitude, heedless and indifferent of the needs of other men and women, if we lived, uninvolved, selfish, uncaring, unloving lives, if we’ve borne grudges and refuse to forgive and forget, that means we’ve lived a hellish mean existence that will stay with us beyond physical death.
Again as Ron Rolheiser reminds us of something we’d rather not face, ‘as we and die, so we become eternally, outside the limits of time and space. There may not be marriage in the afterlife but there will be the fulfillment of what we have been in this life. Scary isn’t it?