Fourth Sunday of Easter - Cycle B - John 10:11-18
The poet WH Auden wrote, "Nothing can save us that is possible. We who must die demand a miracle."
What will the heaven Jesus of Nazareth offers us in the Gospels resemble? The cynic says, "Heaven is the Coney Island of the Christian imagination."
The satirist, who may be more correct than he realizes, writes, "In heaven, roast geese fly around with gravyboats in their bills. Strawberry tarts grow like sunflowers. Everywhere there are brooks of bouillon and champagne..."
The theologian borrows a line from today's first reading, "...we shall be like Him..."
After all is said and done, though, one point is certain, "Catholics talk about heaven but few are anxious to get there."
Courage! One Catholic writer may cause us to move up our reservations. Says he, "It is my firm conviction that heaven, to satisfy the whole person, must have all the beauties, splendors, and material pleasures possible." The author is Luigi Majocco, SJ. His book is Heavenly Humanism: a New Vision of Paradise.
The volume received good reviews from publications as diverse as Civilta Cattolica and from Panorama, the equal of Newsweek and Time. It has the official approval of the Church.
Professor Majocco of the Jesuit Social Institute in Turin argues that the usual image of heaven as the angel's playground has no box office appeal for us. In his heaven, we will be able "to receive all the caresses we have not been able to receive." Heaven will be "an entire world of friends and dear relatives and, in a way of speaking, crazy lovers."
In heaven we will discover "delicate perfumes, exquisite birdsongs, rhythmic dances...athletic competitions contested by some, watched with interest by others, and applauded by all - even the losers." It will be "impossible for us to be bored because we will be taking tourist trips through the cosmos and there are so many angels and humans to meet."
Of course the Jesuit will allow us to taste the pleasures of the table. However, there is one note of dismal news for this pansexual age. There will be no sex. I wonder how much influence Father Majocco's advanced age and his celibate vow colored his thinking on this point. So, all you lovers, take heart!
This book may be a target for laughs by TV comics (ie, if they can read books). Yet the 600 page tome offers magical pictures and worthwhile discussion points. Also out in his theological bullpen, Majocco has two formidable relief pitchers - George Santayana and a fellow Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin. And that is traveling first class.
Santayana was the late celebrated professor of philosophy at Harvard University. He wanted to lift heaven out of the non-excitement that literature usually lends to it. He counters that if we must discuss heaven, we should do so in "frankly material" terms. One such is the re-meeting of old friends - a point which, you may recall, Majocco emphasizes.
Father Teilhard, who needs no introduction, argues that heaven will be human, cosmic, social, and material.
Keep in mind heaven has to be material. Our defined teaching posits that the bodies of Jesus and Mary are already there. Also the Church teaches that in the general resurrection our bodies will head there directly.
Could it be that spiritual writers with their contempt for the material world have sold Jesus short? After all, He did say, "In my father's house, there are many mansions." Do picture yourself in a heavenly suite. Or this familiar line, "Come, ye blessed of my father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Consider this exciting line from St Paul: "Eye has not seen nor ear heard - neither has it entered into the heart of man the things (my italics) God has prepared for those who love him."
Beware though. Unlike American Express, heaven is not a place where one travels now and pays later. And discount
packages are simply out of the question. Nor are there travel agents. You do your own negotiating with God.
Remember Whitefield's line. "You take care of your life, and the Lord will take care of your death."
Hopefully the late Mr Auden enjoys the miracle