by Rev. Joseph Castaldi,
Pastor, St. Joseph
Parish, New London, Ct.
Presented at the
Pequot Chapel, August
In the human condition,
the idea of the afterlife goes from A to Z. At one extreme: “When
I’m dead, I’m dead. It’s curtains. It’s all over.”
And then there is our belief: Heaven awaits me in the company of God my
Father, Jesus my Savior, and all the Saints. Although not recent,
a Gallup Poll in 1988 found that 77% believed in this latter position.
gives us very little help regarding eternity. In Theology, it is
called a “Strict Mystery”: beyond the realm of human
understanding. With that as a backdrop, we now enter the realm of
Religion. When Jesus appeared on the scene 2,007 years ago as a
member of the Jewish community, that community was divided into two
major factions, which might be called liberals and conservatives.
The Pharisees believed in the afterlife and in the resurrection of the
dead. The Sadducees denied any belief in the afterlife.
Jesus appeared in public at the age of 30 years, and threw his weight
entirely with the Pharisees – making the afterlife the center of His
Jesus was an itinerant
preacher, as was quite common in antiquity…including Aristotle, Plato,
Socrates, Seneca, etc. These preachers gathered men around them
and taught them to propagate their ideas. And Jesus had his
Twelve Apostles. Scripture scholars tell us that every parable
and every explicit teaching of Jesus has the afterlife as its
basis. We quote here only a few: “I am the resurrection and the
life….”; “In my Father’s house….”; “The good and the bad enter into the
Kingdom prepared….”: the three references to Heaven and Kingdom in
Jesus own prayer, the Our Father. When the Jews tired of Jesus
and wanted to do away with Him, they succeeded with the word
“Kingdom”. And Pilate added the term “King of the Jews” to Jesus’
identification on the cross. While hanging on the cross in
terrible pain, Jesus rewarded the criminal’s faith with a promise to be
with him “in Paradise”.
So, from the teachings
of Jesus we ask: what is this Heaven as He presented it? It is
the destination; the reward; the relief from trials and tribulations;
the reunion with those whom we love; the lasting home, the permanent
address; the everlasting Father; the perpetual Christmas; the eternal
Here St. Paul helps us
out. “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, the glories that
await us” as we approach Heaven on our earthly pilgrimage. In the
Nicene Creed we express our belief in “the resurrection of the dead and
the life of the world to come.” And in the hymn “Amazing Grace”, we
know that after “10,000 years…we’ve just begun.” Yes, Jesus,
Heaven awaits us.
Please see the article in the
September - October 2007 issue of AARP Magazine entitled "Life
After Death", by Bill Newcott. The following are the
results of a poll conducted by the author: 86% believe in Heaven;
94% believe in God; 70% believe in Hell; and 77% are not frightened by
thoughts of what happens after death.