A young woman’s eyes turned misty as she spoke of her grandfather’s death: “Though I’ll miss him terribly, I’m at peace because he’s been waiting to be with my grandmother since the day she died. They were married for 60 years, and now they’re dancing in heaven!” What a sweet sentiment, but will they? Is it true?
In this Sunday’s Gospel, the Sadducees, who denied the afterlife, challenge Jesus on the resurrection through a story about marriage and remarriage. After a woman is widowed seven times, they inquire: “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?” Jesus affirms the resurrection and poses a rebuttal: “The children of this age marry and remarry, but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
It matters not whether one was married on earth, for in heaven each person will be united with God — we will be with Jesus. Our particular vocation (marriage, single, religious), intended to help us grow in holiness, will no longer need to exist. We will be judged by how we loved each person placed on our path — those in our homes and those on the streets. After the purification of our petty jealousies, angry words, greed and pride, only love will remain. For in heaven, there is only love.
And that love, the love of God, runs deep enough, vast enough and wide enough to be given and received fully with each person: spouse, friend, child, stranger. In heaven, we will love the beggar as much as the beloved spouse or precious grandchild. We will love the stranger as much as the dearest friend. Through Christ, we will even love those we disliked or found difficult on earth. In heaven, there is only One Love — the love of God, which does not discriminate.
As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s loving presence — by reminding our children that God, who is LOVE, created them for love. We guide them to see heaven as our goal and teach them that the surest way to heaven is to love God and one another. We allow them to ask questions about life and death and the resurrection. We pray for our deceased loved ones and celebrate All Saints and All Souls.
When my father died, I received great comfort by imagining him reunited with my mother. Would God not make this a reality? And what of those who have buried babies or children? Will God not replace the ache in their hearts with absolute joy by reuniting them in heaven? And, for those who long for parents, siblings or friends? Somehow, someway, I believe God will make it possible for us to love each person in heaven while also allowing us to recognize and reunite with our particular loved ones — otherwise, it wouldn’t be heaven.
People do not marry or remarry in heaven, because each person who dies falls into the embrace of our loving Savior. Though my father and mother may not be “married” in heaven, I trust they — and the glorious communion of saints — will be dancing together in God’s eternal love. For now, we will see one another in the Eucharist as we receive Jesus, who is LOVE. Now, that’s good news!
How do you think of heaven?
What do you teach your children about your deceased loved ones?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen: www.marypedersen.com.