Luke 12: 32-40

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16

I think that one of the highest hurdles that those who would be faithful must clear is the hurdle of perspective. In other words, adopting the proper perspective between the here and now and the hereafter is a very tough challenge.

Concern with the here and now always seems to dominate any efforts we may make to dwell on life after death.

The here and now, of course, is tangible: we can feel, hear, touch and smell it.

The here and now is real, we cannot escape or evade it.

But the hereafter, now that’s something quite different.

Aside from testimonies of near death experiences, the only information we have about what follows death is the New Testament.

And, of course, the New Testament was written 2000 years ago and is awash in mystery and miracles.

Now, it is an axiom of human nature that we fear what we do not understand.

And of all the inevitable events of life, death inspires the greatest fear because we have so little understanding of what it means, what it will entail.

A second axiom of human behavior is that we instinctively feel that we must understand something before we can believe it.

This instinct has been heightened by humanism and the great trust that post-modern mankind places in science.

Mystery and miracles are the first casualties of the insistence that understanding and proof must precede belief.

Now, to be sure, death will always engender an absence of understanding and consequently, fear.

I think that was one reason Saint Anselm said famously: “I believe in order to understand.

Supernatural truths, not revealed by reason alone, are perceived by faith.”

The faulty premise that belief and faith must be preceded by rational understanding is addressed further in the Epistle reading from Hebrews.

In the classic definition of faith, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says this:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

By faith we understand…

Christ understood humanity and He knew what death entailed and He was Himself the proof of life after death.

The Lord’s concern with human fear of death, His understanding of how difficult the concept of life after death was for human beings to grasp, is reflected in today’s Gospel.

The first thing to note about Luke’s account is that aside from the first five words, the entire reading is a quote by Jesus.

There is nothing secondary about this reference to life after death, these are words from the creator of life, this is what researchers call a primary reference.

Make no mistake, this is a quote from the lips of God in human form.

So let’s unpack what Christ says and see how and if it provides insight into death and life after death.

When Christ begins by saying “do not be afraid little flock’ for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” this is what He means.

By little flock He is addressing those who believe in Him, who have access to eternal life.

By do not be afraid, the Lord is saying, do not fear death.

For to those who believe in Christ, God gives the kingdom, in other words God gives eternal life to those who have faith.

Jesus continues: “Sell your possessions and give alms.

Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What Christ means by his comments about purses that thieves can steal and moths destroy is that accumulation of wealth and material on earth, what this world equates with success, means absolutely nothing after we die.

Rather, the only thing from this life that we can transfer into heaven is our relationships with God and with those we love.

Neither moth, nor time, nor thieves, nor even death, can erase or reduce or minimize or in any way affect love…love you see is eternal.

Those of us who have lost loved ones know the reality of this, while our loved ones may have gone ahead, our love for them remains as vivid as it has ever been.

And since love is eternal, there must be a dimension beyond physical life to accommodate it….that dimension is eternal life in Christ.

The eternal life that Christ promises those who believe in Him after their physical deaths  is wrapped around eternal relationships.

Relationships directly between Christ and those who believe in Him, and relationships between us and those whom we love and have loved on earth.

Those relationships, and the love intrinsic to them, are what Christ means by treasures.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What is wealth and material possessions and portfolios compared with love?

What is physical life on earth compared with eternal life in Christ?

St Paul captures this concept in his first letter to the Corinthians when he describes eternal life this way: “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, of what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Now the rest of the Gospel account addresses the urgent necessity to prioritize heavenly treasures over earthly treasures.

Physical death, the Lord points out, can come at any moment, like a thief in the night.

Consequently ordering our lives in the proper priority is a task for the here and now, not to be delayed until we are on our death beds, for we may never actually have time on our death beds.

Suppose that God took you on a crystal ball trip into your future and you saw with certainty that in spite of your disappointments, your failures, your regrets, you could have your hearts deepest desire.

This, you see, is the scandalously good news of the Gospel; that we are guaranteed eternal life with those we love by a sheer, unmerited gift of grace.

Amen

 


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