Three men died and went to heaven. St. Peter asked the first if he had been faithful to his wife; he admitted to two affairs during his marriage. St. Peter said, then you only get to drive a compact car in heaven. He asked the same question to the second man; he admitted to one affair so he was given a mid-size car to drive. The third man said he had been true to his wife until the day he died; he was given the luxury car.
A week later the three men were driving around heaven and they met at a red light. The man in the luxury car was crying; the other two asked him what could be the matter. He said that he just passed his wife and she was on a skateboard. Now that I’ve told you a joke, let’s talk about the gospel.
Some time ago I walked through a cemetery, I will never forget its name, it has a very consoling name-a name that reminded me of Calvary- it was called “Hills of Eternity.” I walked through path after path, stone upon stone and I came upon a massive memorial.
It was the grave of a young man, 20 years old. Beneath his name and dates, a single line was carved. It read, “How many hopes lie buried here.” Haven’t we all thought, felt or said that at some time. When we stood by the grave of a loved one, not necessarily a young person, but someone we loved?
For so many, the supreme sorrow is death, death and all the lesser forms of death. Pain, loss, lovelessness, loneliness, a kind of death by installments. For many people death means the end, the more life there is in us the more joy. Even when we seemingly have nothing to live for, we live for life. Because none of us really wants to die. Not because our faith is infirm, rather because there is so much to live for. We all want to go to heaven, but not yet.
The Sadducees in the gospel held that there was no hereafter, no heaven, and they pose a crafty riddle to Jesus. They bring up the silly case of the woman with seven husbands. Don’t we all have questions about heaven, not about matrimonial status? We wonder if babies who have died will still be babies in heaven. Will the elderly still be old in heaven, will we recognize one another. The people we did not like on earth, will we have to pal around with them in heaven.
Will our pets be in heaven, dogs have to be. Will our scars be gone, our receding hairlines, our embarrassments, will we be bored? And what will we do all day, will it be air-conditioned? In short, what is heaven like? Through the ages all kinds of people have given us all kinds of answers. But, listen to what Jesus says to the Sadducees, when they ask what will happen to the woman with seven husbands when they all die?
He says the woman in the story is not going to be anybody’s wife. He said in effect that the whole question was irrelevant. Why? Because things will be different. People will be different, heaven will be different. All will be radically different, forget about your questions. Because all will be beyond our questions, beyond our imagination. Just as five hundred years ago our ancestors could not imagine an artificial heart, or a computer or television. So we cannot imagine heaven.
Just as the crawling homely caterpillar in its wildest dreams could never imagine that it could fly as a gorgeously colored butterfly. Jesus is saying to forget all your categories, all your paradigms, all your preconceptions. Heaven is beyond time, beyond experience, heaven is eternal life with God. Heaven is so entirely different, so completely beyond our present thinking.
So spectacularly full and rich that no questions it, no answers would be understood. And so only one thing really counts, only one thing remains…Faith. A faith that does not come from knowing whose wife the woman will be. Or from knowing any details, it is a faith that comes from believing Jesus. And trusting that when He says heaven will be different, it will be different. And that Jesus loves us beyond measure and desires that all be saved. We are given no specifics, no solutions, no answers, and no picture postcards.
Instead, we are called simply to surrender. Surrender our questions and our difficulties and our logical puzzles. And to trust that God will handle things better than we could ever imagine. And that God’s love and care for us will surpass all that we can ask or imagine.
When all is said and done, when we think about heaven we still come back to St. Paul. He echoes Jesus when he says, no eye has seen, nor ear heard. Nor has it even entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him. That is what Jesus is really saying about heaven, case closed. It really does come down to this believe deeply that Jesus loves you. And that love endures through time and eternity. And that the curiosities about heaven will take care of themselves. Just be prepared to be surprised at the answers you never had questions for.