St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

The Afterlife                                                                                       -Homily May 8, 2016

 

Let me paraphrase Cardinal Collins, addressing the Catholic schools during last Catholic Education Week. He said something very strong: “High schools are concerned with preparing the youth for life after school; but Catholic schools should be concerned with preparing the youth for life after death.” I felt it as a reminder of something crucial, for me as a priest, and for all of us as Christians: the Gospel is not something that helps you to have a better life here, like an escape from the usual trials of life. The Gospel is what prepares us for life after death. The Gospel is the way we need to follow if we want to have eternal life and happiness with our Lord in Heaven. The Gospel is not an assurance of life on earth, it is not free life-insurance, it is eternal life assurance, if we follow the values of the Gospel.

 

It is a reminder of what we are doing here in Church, of who Jesus is, where Jesus is, and where we are going. The feast of the Ascension of the Lord is a reminder of the immortality of the soul, of life after death, and of eternal happiness with our Lord after death.

 

Sometimes, you see, children are too young to think about God. Youth are too happy to think about God. Adults are too busy to think about God. Elderly are too old to think about God. And one day, it is too late to think about God. We will all die, we will all face the Judge, but each of us will be judged in a different way, according to his or her works.

 

To think about eternal life doesnt make your life less happy. It gives meaning to the trials of life, and puts also in perspective the joys of life. When you think about life after death, you know that there is an end to every evil, and so, in the middle of trials, you breathe, you breathe in hope. You also realize that there is an end to earthly joys, but that doesnt sadden you, as it saddens “those who have no hope.” You know that those fleeting joys are not the real deal, but only signs of the love of God, and that one day you will possess a perfect happiness without end. These little joys on earth, that sometimes look so great, are only anticipations of a greater glory that has no end. The life of a Christian is happier because, as St. Athanasius would say, we go from celebration to celebration, until the great celebration. We enjoy what we have now, because it is a gift from God; but we also rejoice in the thought that it will get better. Christian joy is more perfect because it is not fleeting, it is not anxious because the party has an end, it always hopes for more.

 

That the soul is immortal cannot be scientifically denied. Rather, modern science is a proof that our spirit can not only control matter, but also understand it, penetrate its essence and its laws. Our spirit is above matter. Our spirit does not grow old with our body, and it can even grow stronger and wiser. Moreover, there is no reason to deny what cannot be verified with a microscope just because of that. Logic and Mathematics are also sciences, and they do not verify their principles and conclusions with a microscope. History is also a science, and has nothing to do with natural science. There is a science, called Philosophy (I mean the serious one…), that can demonstrate rationally the existence of an immortal soul. But we leave the demonstration to philosophers and we go ahead with the homily.

 

I wonder why people find it so hard to believe the immortality of the soul, but as soon as someone speaks about reincarnation, they easily welcome it as something plausible… Why? Who said that there is a reincarnation? Do they have more authority than the Bible? I wonder if reincarnation is more accepted just because it takes away the responsibility of having to conduct a good life. The worst that can happen to you if you are a very bad boy is to reincarnate as a spring fly… Well, the Bible is a little bit more demanding. But that is what people who really love us do: they demand more from us, because they know that we are more, and we can do more.

 

Some people tell me that it is difficult to believe in the afterlife, because nobody has come back to tell us. I tell you this: Jesus did come back. “But I didn’t see him.” The apostles and another 500 hundred people saw him (cf. 1 Co 15:3-8), and they are the ones who told us that he came back. “Why should we believe what they said?” Well, they did such a good job at convincing people, that nobody ever since the first century has been able to question that witness. The only possible historical explanation of the existence of the Church is the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.[1] You cannot explain otherwise why so many people believed such an incredible thing as the resurrection of a criminal who claimed to be the Son of God. The whole Roman Empire became Christian by that witness! My point is: we believe many things we do not see, even when only one person says it, and even when this person may not be a friend. Why not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, when so many witnesses, and history itself, agree in their testimony?

 

If Jesus came back, it means that there is an afterlife. And that is good news, because it means that life is not a picnic, but there is a reward for our efforts, there is an end to suffering, there is eternal happiness in store for us, and we can get there by the grace of God. We do not go to Heaven because we are perfect, but because there is forgiveness for sinners. The thought of the afterlife should urge us to be responsible in our actions, in our words, in our thoughts. It should also urge us to be sorry for our sins and be reconciled with God. It should also make us very happy… There is always hope of forgiveness, there is always hope that we will do better, there is always hope of eternal happiness with God.

May the Lord give us joy, the joy he promised to the apostles, a joy that nobody can take away from us. –Fr. Andrew



[1] «The resurrection was incredible in some time. But behold, the whole world believes in it, since the body of Christ was taken to heaven. Wise and ignorant have already believed in the resurrection of flesh and ascension into heaven; yes, a few have not believed but they are amazed… We have three incredible things which are already real facts. It is incredible that Christ is risen from the dead…; it is incredible that the whole world has believed such incredible thing, and it is incredible that men of humble and very poor condition, few and ignorant, have been able to convince the whole world and its wise men of such incredible thing. Of these three incredible things, our adversaries refuse to believe the first one [the Resurrection]; they are forced to contemplate the second one [the “whole world”, the Roman empire, is Christian], but they cannot explain it if they do not believe the third one [a few poor men convinced the whole world of an incredible thing]» (St. Augustine, The City of God, 22, 5).