My homily, given at Holy Ghost at the 5 PM Mass on November 13. No audio recording this time due to technical difficulties.
The Hope of Heaven and the Glorified Body
MAL 3:19-20A; PS 98:5-6, 7-8, 9; 2 THES 3:7-12; LK 21:5-19
I’m not going to speak to you this evening about the aftermath of the election. There’s enough of that going on everywhere you turn. No, today I’m going to ask you to join me as we turn our attention toward Heaven. I believe we all need to be reminded of that which really matters as we experience this time of turmoil, division and angst.
In these final Sundays of our liturgical year the Church speaks of the end times and invites us to look beyond our immediate worries, troubles, interests and largely selfish concerns. We are reminded that the coming judgement spoken of in today’s responsorial psalm is a promise of hope, not destruction. We are invited to contemplate God’s righteousness, his love, and the Heavenly home he has prepared for us following this life filled with trials and troubles.
It is said that there are two things in life we can be sure of, death and taxes. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the certainty of death. One day we will die. At that time life as we now know it will change forever.
The moment of our death will put an end to all our works, all our plans, and to all the concerns which give a certain purpose to our daily life. At the time of our death our soul will go forth into the unknown, like a traveler entering into unexplored territory.
Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about our death or this unexplored territory we call Eternity. I believe this is mostly because we’re so preoccupied with our daily concerns, but it’s also because we don’t really have any idea of what it will be like to spend eternity with God, always in his presence, seeing him as He is.
In fact, some of us may actually think it will be boring in heaven. You know, just sitting around all day praising God. Won’t that be like sitting in a pew at church 24/7? Most of us wouldn’t want to do that for eternity, right?
Others may think that we’ll run out of things to do after the first thousand years or so. I mean, how much can there really be to do or see?
You see, we just don’t know what to expect and we use our limited imaginations when we to try to envision what life will be like in Heaven.
In spite of our limitations, some of the great Saints have given us insight into what Heaven will be like. Many of them have had visions of Heaven that we can learn from.
I wanted to share one of these insights with you today, with the hope that you’ll come to a deeper understanding of how AMAZING Heaven is going to be. My prayer is that this knowledge of one aspect of eternal life will cause you to spend more time sharing your faith with others so that they too will be able to come to know the hope of our salvation.
In order to better understand this hope, we must first remember that when Jesus rose from the dead after he was crucified, his risen body was different. It defied the laws of nature in that it took on different appearances and was able to pass right through a closed door. He was also able to appear and disappear instantly in his risen, glorified body.
And, here’s the really amazing thing, we too have been promised that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, each of us will also be given a glorified body just like Jesus’ resurrected body! We will literally be joined to HIS body and take on its characteristics.
We’re all familiar with this basic tenet of our faith…we’ve heard it, perhaps, a few hundred times or more, right? But how many of us have really reflected on what it means when we make the claim that our bodies will rise from the dead and assume the characteristics of Christ’s glorified body? What exactly does this mean and what light does it shed on the nature of our eternal life in Heaven?
To answer to this question, I’d like to turn to a Saint who was one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time and a renowned doctor of the Church. Let’s take a brief look at what St. Thomas Aquinas has to say about the nature of the glorified body…the body we will each receive in the resurrection.
According to St. Thomas, our resurrected body will have the following 5 characteristics:
- First, our glorified body will have Identity – We will recognize one another in heaven. We may not look exactly the same, just as Jesus looked differently to those he met following the resurrection. However, we will have a unique identity and others will be able to recognize us for who we are. I will be Scott, you will be Sid, you will be John, etc. We will know each other.
- St. Thomas tells us that the 2nd characteristic of our glorified body is that of: Quality – Our body will be at the height of its powers; full, powerful, beautiful. Many of us can certainly relate to how our mortal body is no longer at the height of its powers. But, our glorified body will perform optimally forever.
- 3rd characteristic: Impassibility/Unchangeability – our heavenly body will never change or diminish. There will be no threat or experience of sickness or death. As we’ve aged I’m sure we would all agree that we are truly changing and deteriorating. The glorified body will never deteriorate…not for all eternity! We will enjoy perfect health forever.
- The 4th characteristic is Agility – This is the one I particularly like. Agility is defined by St. Thomas as the utter submission of the body to the soul. He says we be able to travel at the “speed of thought.” Wow! Let me say it again…we will be able to travel at the speed of thought! In our mortal bodies we have to go to great efforts to travel. When Christine and I travel to Canada to see the grandkids, we have to get to the airport, check in, often experience delays, go through the boarding process, spend hours in flight, etc. etc. You know the drill.According to St. Thomas, in the glorified body we’ll be able to go wherever we wish in an instant! Imagine this! We merely think it and we’re there. No, it’s not science fiction…it’s Heaven.
- And finally, the 5th characteristic: Clarity or Luminosity – Aquinas says that our glorified bodies will be filled with light. Jesus showed three of his disciples this quality at the Transfiguration. His transfigured body was filled with light, just as our glorified bodies will be. We will glow, filled with the light of Christ.
Now, I don’t know about you, but imagining how God will transform these mortal bodies into amazing glorified bodies, makes me want Jesus to return NOW! And this glorified body, it’s just one facet of eternal life in Heaven!
Now chances are pretty good that we will not be going to Heaven today, so in the time we have remaining here on Earth let’s be resolved to prepare ourselves for Heaven by offering our lives to God, serving our neighbors so that we will each become a living sign of the goodness of God, the goodness that will be all in all when the sun of justice arises with its healing rays. Let this hope of our salvation keep everything else in perspective and shape our lives as we journey through this valley of tears.
Let’s not worry about the end times, or even pay too much attention to the turmoil that surrounds us today. Rather, let’s live every day of the rest of our lives as if we are already citizens of Heaven, showing kindness, love and mercy toward all, especially those who rub us the wrong way. Let us be a light for the world and set our sights on reaching our Heavenly home.
So, when will Christ return to clothe us with our immortal body and bring us to Heaven? Well, only God knows, but you can be certain that the time is coming and that it will be beyond our wildest dreams!
In the meantime, let’s get to work, love our neighbors, stop gossiping and being busybodies, and let the hope of Heaven strengthen us in our times of trial and suffering.
God bless you.