Good morning, everyone! It’s always great to be back home. My name if you don’t know who I am, is Father John Gribowich, which I recognize some faces here. I taught Central Catholic for about 10 years before I was a priest. Always great to be back home. It’s always the danger that, as Jesus said, that no prophet is never accepted in his native land, so I don’t know where my words will land with you today, but I’ll try my best to share with you what I feel the Lord’s put in my heart.
You know what, this past week up in Brooklyn, where I’m a priest, I participate in something called Dial-A-Priest, and this was a way to kind of interact with 4th and 5th graders at different schools. We would do this all through video conferencing, through a Skype session. And the children are all ready for the priest to show up, and they had all these questions. And of course, like when this happens, you very quickly get humbled, because children ask the darndest questions, right? And the first question that came out to me was, “so if God created the whole world and God created everything, then who created God?”
My gosh, you need like a PhD in Theology to answer some of these questions. And I’m like, “well, no one made God. Next question!”
And of course another question question I got was, “when we die and we go to Heaven, what’s Heaven going to be?” And I’m like, that’s a good question, because when you think about it all of us in some way shape or form ought to ask ourselves the question what is heaven going to be like. And for many of us I think we may just reduce it to being something – well it sounds like a better place than hell, so I guess I want to go to heaven.
But I think that a lot of us will lead to places of thinking of Heaven as some type of place that’s almost akin to like a resort, maybe, and we kind of look at it from a very material way.
Now, that is totally fine, because I think I do the same. In fact, if you ask me what do I expect heaven to be, like I said well you know I think I really expect heaven for me to be like, walking into like a really nice old-fashioned Irish pub, having Guinness after Guinness, and in the corner will be Bob Dylan and his band playing for all of eternity and I’ll be sitting next to Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley and I’ll be pretty content. As you can tell, I love Guinness and I love Bob Dylan and I love Irish Pubs, so that’s kind of what I want heaven to look like for the rest of the rest of my eternal life.
But the fact of the matter is that no matter how grandiose of an idea we could place in our minds of what looks like, the reality is that heaven is not a place as much as it is a relationship. Heaven in itself is a relationship.
Now of course the question is its relationship with who and I think probably would think well I guess the default answer is God. It is a relationship with God, and of course that’s true, but I think that what heaven is, it is a place where we are able to be in a perfected state of relationships with each other.
And when we think about it, what we really desire in this world are perfected relationships. We desire us to get along with people, right? If we look at it on a grand scale, then we would love it if we live in a world where there was no war, wherenNations got along, right? And there was no Injustice, that there was no poor people, or are there people suffering from other types of inequalities. We would love it if there was this great harmonious type of existence, and of course we thow up our hands saying it will never happen, but of course there are many people working for justice and in our own local world in our own global families, we realize how painful it is when children don’t talk to their parents, or when there’s alienation between siblings, or when just our neighbor just treats us in a way that just we can’t figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing.
All of us struggle with the relationships in our lives and we wish that somehow everything was right, but there was a genuine harmony and basically what we’re desiring what we were desiring that harmony, we’re getting along perfectly and enjoying each other’s company and loving each other and receiving the fullness of love. When we are desiring those things in our world, that’s simply proof that we are desiring heaven, we are desiring a place where are we are in harmony with our brothers and sisters. Because the proof of heaven is revealed through our desires. Why would we have desires that cannot be fulfilled?
We have lots of very easy desires, right? I’m hungry – I go open up the fridge, I eat something: fulfilled, right? I want a beer, I go to the pub, I get a Guinness: fulfilled.
The reality is that the desires in our hearts push us to seek higher things, to seek things that do not actually end – to seek a perfected state. We’re hardwired to not want to die, which is why we fight against death.
Now at the school that I go to, there’s signs around like, kind of talking about the different accomplishments that the university has been able to do over the last few years, and one of the signs, banners said, “Living to 125: a Reality.” I sit there thinking about that, like, do I want to live to 125? I don’t know why in the world anyone would want to live to 125, but you can tell that the reason why that’s such a great accomplishment is because we don’t want to die.
We fear death and the reality is that none of us can escape it, even if we had all the science in the world that makes us live to another 50, 60 years. Death is always around the corner, because we know of how many times a very tragic thing happens. As I always say, we can walk out the church today and be hit by a bus, right?
Life is very fragile, but yet we desire to live, and the Lord today in the Gospel is really showing to us something about that desire. The whole teaching of this Gospel is all contingent upon who Jesus is speaking to, just like those 4th and 5th graders were trying to get me with their questions. Well, the people who are trying to get Jesus in this Gospel are this group of Jews known as the Sadducees. And the Sadducees, well they didn’t believe in the resurrection, so they were sad, you see?
[pause] Oh, that didn’t go over too well – it’s too early. [groans]
Anyway, they were always looking at the things of this world as being an end in themselves and the Sadducees were very comfortable people. They were the ones who have a lot of well in a lot of position in society, so in their minds the way that God would reveal His blessings was by them having a lot of things in the world – a lot of material stuff, a lot of status. That was a sign of God’s blessing. This idea of heaven was like that was like, not necessary in their theological worldview because they had heaven on Earth if you will.
So of course they are trying to trap Jesus and saying, all right, so if we get married here and you have a situation where people are married five, six, seven, times, who were they married to in heaven? Jesus reveals that is, like, marriage doesn’t exist in heaven – it’s something that exists here.
And I think that we have to ask ourselves the question, what is the vocation of marriage ultimately doing for us. In a very real localized way it’s helping us to perfect a relationship with another. Which is why we are married for life, we enter a commitment, and we also believe that somehow God blesses and graces that commitment. Because what that is, is a preparation for eternity, and then in eternity we’re no longer have to be working at our relationships and perfecting them, but they are perfected in God’s eyes. The same God who wills each and everyone of us into existence in the first place. The same God who provides for us each and every day. The same God who helps us through the ups and downs of our married lives. That same God is who is waiting for us in heaven to allow us to experience that which is in the deepest desires of our heart, which is harmony with our Brothers and sisters
So, today at this Mass as we receive Jesus, maybe we recognize that we are not just given the strength and the grace to be in communion with God but we’re given the strength in the grace to be in communion with each of our brothers and sisters. The body of Christ at the altar strengthens the body of Christ that we all are. That is one in the same.
May we pray for each other – not so much to think that we need more things, or we need to acquire even the perfect state of heaven where we have everything the way we wanted.
Let us pray today to empty ourselves to be the person God wants us to be, for our brothers and sisters.
May God bless you all.