At Easter time we are prepared to address some of the imaginative questions which usually only come to us at funerals.
What is the gift of everlasting life? How can we imagine it?
We only have a few images from Jesus about heaven. He tells us it is like a wedding banquet. He says that he goes to prepare a place for us - a place in his Father's house, which has many rooms.
One of the nicest things about going out of town for a wedding, or going on vacation and staying with friends or family, is to hear them say that they have a room ready for us. And, part of the fun is to look forward to the visit and the hospitality they prepared for us. Sometimes, it is wonderful to find a flower in a simple vase. Sometimes, there are special "guest towels" and a new bar of soup, and if the weather is cold, there is an extra blanket. When we see our room, we are likely to thank our host and to say, "You thought of everything. I feel so at home here."
Of course, at family and friends' weddings, there is great anticipation at seeing our loved ones and friends whom we hadn't seen in a while. It's the best part of the party. The bonds and connections that are renewed fill us with such joy. Often we have a sense that "We just picked up right where we left off." We discover how the relationships are still there. And, at the best weddings, we have such great fun telling stories and laughing and dancing. We can look across the room and the difficulties, anxieties and the troubles of our everyday life seem very far away.
Whatever we might imagine the Easter promise of eternal life, it seems that we can use images like these, of true human hospitality and joy, raised to the level of divine life. Because we can't know now what divine life is like, and we can't even get close to imagining a "place" or a "time" without space and time - in eternity - we use human images to comfort ourselves and to help us anticipate what is "more than we can ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20)
If the purpose of the funeral rites is to help us enter into a new relationship with those we have lost, then part of the purpose of the Easter season is to help us anticipate, even to long for, the realization of the promise of eternal life. We can reflect on all our efforts to get closer to our Lord in this life, but it is wonderous to imagine complete communion with Jesus. We can remember the best of times which we had with friends and loved ones, but it is a deep and powerful experience to let ourselves anticipate the joys of a renewal of the bonds and affection - without the barriers of divisions, worries, sin or death.
This week, let us give ourselves to the real joy of the promise, and to imagining its fulfillment, forever.
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