Today's readings: Isaiah 25, 6-9; Romans 5, 5-11; John 6, 37-40.
In life we are restless wanderers. Many people do not feel really at home in their houses and try to escape as often as they can. This is proof of something very profound about man and human nature. We cannot be completely at home among our possessions.
They say "Home is where the heart is". It is where our restless heart finds rest. It is something not just physical or merely psychological, but mainly spiritual. Authentic spirituality makes us always in search of real life. The prodigal son, having left for a faraway country, longed to return home to the father. And this is a strong metaphor for what many of us go through. God is our homecoming, our homeland.
Today's Gospel reminds us that "Whoever sees the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life". Seeing and believing are great signs of spiritual maturity in life. They are not against each other. Believing is not closing your eyes. Believing makes you see deeper. And when it comes to eternity, which is beyond the empirical, we need to see deeper.
Christianity offers this depth. It leads to the broad vision of cosmic history and of our existence, extending from the creation of the universe, through to redemption in Christ and culminating in the great hope of final restoration. We call this final restoration 'heaven', a theme conveyed to us in the Bible through very powerful and rich images, but which stands mainly for our final resting in peace. C. S. Lewis writes that heaven is not a state of the mind. Heaven is reality itself.
Evoking the memory of our departed loved ones on this day is not just a revisiting memories of the past with nostalgia. Billy Graham says that any philosophy that deals only with the here and now is not adequate for man. Because it is partial, even deceptive. "Hope does not disappoint us," writes St Paul. Without hope for the future, life can be unbearable. The hope of who believes in God is to stand one day in the presence of that same God.
"Eternal life does not begin with death; it begins with faith," says Samuel Shoemaker. Eternal life has nothing to do with reincarnation or with some form of existence which is only the fruit of imagination. People sometimes see what they want to see and often, if they don't see it, they fabricate it.
It is not easy or common for us mortals to speak about eternal life, particularly in this day and age. This is understandable. We dream of living on. But what we dream of is only an extension of what we know and experience. We live in time and space and the concept of the eternal is beyond us. At times, we try hard to figure out what eternity might be like. It is difficult for us to think in different categories of life, having nothing to wait for and without any deadlines.
But the answers to all the questions we pose as to what will happen after we die are not to be sought merely in the concept of a survival of the soul, as found in Plato, who believed in the existence of a deathless soul distinct from the body. In seeking to remember our faithful departed, it is not the intriguing myriad of stories of sightings and communication with the dead that keep our hope alive. Many fall prey to these stories which are so deceptive, because they remain confined to what is earthly and to who and what we are now.
But the resting in peace we all long for and which many times we lose sight of, is something radically different from what we can ever imagine. It is never our construct. It is always God's gift to us. It is not wishful thinking. It is what many saints and loved ones have already found. God never promises us an easy time, only a safe arrival. It is only in our real homeland that we can be safe, resting in peace.