One core tenet of our Catholic faith is belief in an afterlife. Yet as we can see in today’s readings, just what that means or looks like is up for grabs. After all, no one has come back to tell us about it. Jesus used a lot of analogies and parables, but never described it. What will it be like?
It’s partly so difficult to imagine because we are bodily people. Will I be able to recognize you without your body? Will we see clearly into each other’s very being? Yet how can I even talk about “seeing” if I have no eyes? How can I define another’s “being” if it has no definition? What is a hug without a physical body? I don’t even know how to think about these questions, much less answer them.
I do believe that when we are spirits, there will be a fluidity and union that isn’t possible on earth. There will be no distance, division, suspicion, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, or even skin – basically nothing that keeps us apart. Joined to each other in God, we will inherently understand and love because all of us will be intimately part of Understanding and Love itself. We will finally realize what the Scriptures tell us – that we are one, all children of the same God, all truly in the one Body, and all enjoying the indwelling of the Divine.
Yet we are not supposed to wait until death to fulfill this reality. Despite our bodily separation here, Jesus repeatedly called us to begin living in unity and love on earth. He said the reign of God is already here, if we would only let go of our divisions and live it. Therein lies the challenge, and as usual with Jesus’ challenges, it’s not a comfortable one.
Facing Jesus, I have to ask: Here, right now, how can I discriminate against someone to whom I will be joined for all eternity? How dare I tolerate violence against anyone else, knowing it is violence against my own self? What right do I have to shun someone who believes, worships, or votes differently than I do rather than reaching out and striving to understand them? How can I look the other way when there are ethical violations, inhuman categorizations of other human beings, abuses of power, and disenfranchisement of those in poverty? How can I keep from crying at the state of our world and our discourse, and at the same time, how can I refuse to act to change it?
This is our call. What answer can you give to Jesus? What can we each do this week to help bring about the reign of God here and now for all people?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.