The Hope of Heaven
One day I dreamt death came my way, and heavens gates opened wide.
The angels came and took my hand and ushered me inside.
There I saw folks I had known on earth, that I had judged as having little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips but never were set free.
on every face was stunned surprise … no one expected me!
This little poem always makes me smile, but on the other side of the humor is a reality that I have been thinking about more and more the older I get. People don’t usually like to think about death and yet I have heard it said that we should live every day as if it were our last. Wise words I think.
We now have thousands of witnesses that have experienced what is called “near death experiences”. Because of health issues or accidents many people have died (heart stopped pumping and brain waves ceased) but they themselves continued to function perfectly and later came back to life or were resuscitated. According to Dr. Moody who studied 2000 cases (60 years ago) there are common effects of these experiences. The primary effect of this experience is that people no longer fear death. They describe death as easy and painless … like stepping through a door. The vast majority that seem to leave this earth during these experiences report a peace and love and beauty that cannot be found on earth. Most say they cannot wait to return.
According to Father Robert Spitzer there have been scientific studies done on these near death experiences which have proven two things (to a 95% confidence level). First there is a part of the human being that continues to live when the body is dead. Second, there is life after physical death. You can check this out at crediblecatholic.com … just click on the “scientific evidence for God” link.
Now to be fair there have been a small percentage of these people who have experienced hell as well. These experiences have caused them to change their lives (repent) to avoid going there again.
Of course all this is essentially what Jesus taught from the beginning and so this should not be a surprise to us. But, it is nice to hear confirmations of what we have known all along. Our faith invites us to trust in a loving God who will never leave us even in the uncertainty of death.
I had a good friend once and he had a remarkable faith, even in the face of great mystery and suffering. One summer day his wife was informed that her sister did not have long to live. The cancer had progressed too far and the doctor sent her home to die. She only had a few weeks, or so they said. My friend, a parishioner at St. Joe’s, took his wife to see her sister in Saskatchewan. When they arrived they found a number of relatives in a bedroom visiting the patient. Since she was a smoker the room was full of smoke and the mood was very somber. Now my friend, lets call him Don, was not well liked by that side of the family because he had a habit of talking about Jesus on a regular basis. But this time when he asked his sister-in-law if she would like him to pray for her she said yes. Desperation can be our friend. Don said his best prayer in this smoke filled room full of skeptics, and despite all the gloom in the room, he declared the goodness of God and felt that something good was going to happen. About 2 weeks later Don got a call and his niece said “hey uncle Don you will never guess what happened. Mom went back to the doctor and they can’t find any cancer.” Now this story seems to have an ending that is very encouraging … and it does. However there is more to the story. Within a few months my friend Don, who was a very healthy guy, was diagnosed as having cancer himself. We all gathered around him and said our best prayers on numerous occasions. One day Don said “it is strange but every time we pray the pain gets worse instead of better.” Then he said “oh well, I can’t lose really. If Jesus heals me I get to hang around with you guys … and if he doesn’t I get to be with him”. He had loved Jesus so long that there was no room for doubt in his mind. A few months later I went to see him on a Sunday evening. He was suffering in bed but wanted to say a prayer. Before I could even begin he was engaged in a private conversation with the Lord that I was not part of. I saw his lips moving but I could hear nothing. Suddenly he looked right at me and said “I forgot to ask, did Jesus say he was going to heal me.”
Later that night he told his wife that he was only going to have to suffer 3 more days. On that Wednesday he passed away. Recalling this history has brought tears to my eyes and I realize that I miss him. The only thing that we had in common really was Jesus, but perhaps that is all that is required for the communion of saints. It turns out that there were some who were close to Don that did not want anything to do with his Jesus. But because of the integrity of faith that he displayed right to the end they reconsidered. Perhaps his suffering was redemptive for them.
I don’t understand why God would heal a woman who was not really interested in Him and then let a healthy person who loves him dearly succumb to the same disease. But this question becomes a little less important to me when I remember Jesus words in John 14:1–3 “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
I have started to understand that our real home is in heaven with Jesus … and all those who that have gone before. Death is just a doorway though which we will pass that leads us home. And that what we do in this life is important because it is a preparation for our home coming.
For this reason all the craziness of our current world does not discourage me as much as it used to. After all I am just passing through. I don’t know when it will be my turn to leave this earth … but I do know that it will be sooner today than it was yesterday. And that actually makes me happy as I contemplate the goodness of God and the beauty of heaven.
1 John 4:16 God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them.
Isaiah 43:7 We are made for the glory of our God.
Brothers and sisters let us be consoled by Jesus words “I have gone to prepare a place for you”, and let us live in love now (not fear) as a preparation for our home coming 😇.