At this time of year, we normally pay a visit to the cemeteries.  It is in this occasional visit that perhaps the thought of heaven enters our mind.  Our loved ones who died ahead of us, we are fond of saying, are now in heaven with God.
But what do we really mean when the idea of heaven crosses our mind?  Is it just the rendezvous of the dead? Or is heaven something that appeals only to children and the simple? In today’s gospel (Luke 20), it seems that the Sadducees have some reservations about heaven and its promise of resurrection of the dead. Surely they are now adults, more sophisticated and learned.
Upon seeing the Sadducees, the Lord Jesus immediately affirmed the reality of heaven and the truth of its promise, which is the resurrection of the dead. There is a heaven to which the departed go, not to live like they did on earth but to experience a new kind of living, like the angels, as Jesus described it.  Life does not end in the darkness of the tomb.  There is a life that continues beyond what our eyes can see and our senses can perceive.
More than that, heaven is a promise and a reality for those who live today. Those who hold on to the promises of God know that heaven is an inspiration and a salvation in our every struggle on earth. It is real; it is true; it is dependable.
I cannot fail to be moved by the scenario that 2 Maccabees present, when it narrates the arrest, the torture and death of a mother and her seven sons.  Made to suffer for their faith, they stand tall before their oppressors.  Threatened and hurt physically and morally, they rise above the persons who extinguish their lives. And why?  Because they know for sure, that the God who created them will welcome them into heaven and give them a life more beautiful than the entire physical world they knew.  It seems they were even eager to pass through death so as to more quickly claim the promise of eternal life.
What courage, what hope, what joy overwhelm this family as they confront their most difficult challenge!  Do we have the same faith in the promises of God?  Do we believe that gift that the Lord reserves for those who live in faithfulness?  Is heaven still our goal and our heart’s desire?
Last week, I visited a man who has been suffering for a long time from cancer of various types.  He is exhausted and depressed, angry and tired. His wife has been vicariously suffering with him as she daily nurses him.  While witnessing his steady decline, the wife is strengthened by her faith in the Lord. She knows that God will rescue her husband from the depressing effect of his illnesses and will make him share in the peace and joy of heaven. As she spoke, I could see the pain but I could also sense the hope that this couple believe something greater awaits them both.  They believe in the promise.  They believe it will be fulfilled.
Let us continue to look up to heaven, not to escape the demands of the world.  Rather, let heaven energize us and equip us to confront meaningfully the daily challenges that come to us.