Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Aneede Sunday (Departed Faithful Sunday)
Volume 7 No. 398 February 17, 2017
II. Features On Death

I'm Gonna Ride the Chariot in the Morning, Lord! Homily on Resurrection and Heaven

by Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington

Gospel: Lk 20:27-38
Scripture: 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14

In the readings today, the Church presents us with a strong reminder and teaching on the resurrection. Jesus Himself leads the charge against those who would deny the resurrection from the dead, and the seven brothers and their mother from the first reading bring up the rear. Let's take a look at what we are taught.

I. Ridicule of the Resurrection

The Gospel opens with the observation that Some Sadducees, who deny there is a resurrection, came forward and put [a] question to Jesus. They propose a hypothetical situation in which a woman is married seven times, to brothers who successively die, having no children by any of them. They suggest that at the resurrection there will be confusion as to whose wife she really is! We're supposed to laugh, according to these Sadducees, and conclude that the idea of resurrection is absurd.

Jesus will dismiss their absurdity handily, as we shall see in a moment, but let's consider why the Sadducees disbelieved the resurrection.

Fundamentally, they rejected the resurrection because they only accepted the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This is point is debated among scholars, but we can surely say that if something was not explicitly in the Law of Moses, the Sadducees were unlikely to accept it. All the other Old Testament books such as the prophets, the historical books, the psalms, and the wisdom tradition, were not considered authoritative sources.

They claimed that the resurrection of the dead was not taught in these first five books. While most other Jews of Jesus' time did accept the complete Old Testament (and teachings such as the resurrection of the dead which are set forth there), the Sadducees simply did not. They were a small party within Judaism (Josephus said that they were able to persuade none but the rich). Nevertheless, they were influential due to their wealth and to the fact that they predominated among the Temple leadership. You can read more about them here: Sadducees. -

Hence, the Sadducees approached Jesus to poke fun at Him and all others who believed that the dead would rise.

They are no match for Jesus, who easily dispatches their arguments using the Book of Exodus (a book they accept) to do it. In effect, Jesus' argument proceeds as follows:

You accept Moses, do you not?
(To which they would surely reply yes)

But Moses teaches that the dead will rise.
(Jesus must have gotten puzzled looks but He presses on).

You accept that God is a God of the living and not the dead?
(To which they would surely reply yes).

Then why does God (in Exodus) identify Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all of whom have been dead some 400 years? How can He call himself their God if they are dead?

Obviously they are alive or He could not call Himself their God, for He is not a God of the dead but of the living.

Therefore, they are alive to God; they are not dead.

In this way, Jesus dispatches their view. For us, the point is to see how forcefully and clearly Jesus upholds the fact that the dead are alive in the Lord. He powerfully asserts an essential doctrine of the Church. We should rejoice at how firmly Jesus rebukes their disbelief in the resurrection of the dead.

Rejoice, for your loved ones are alive before God! To this world they may seem dead, but Jesus tells us firmly and clearly that they live. And we, who will also face physical death, will live on. Let the world ridicule this, but hear what Jesus says and how he easily dispatches them. Though the idea is ridiculed, the resurrection is real.

II. Resplendence of the Resurrection

Jesus also sets aside the absurd hypothetical scenario that the Sadducees pose, by teaching earthly realities cannot simply be projected into Heaven. Marriage scenarios, perceived in earthly ways, cannot be used to understand heavenly realities. The saints in Heaven live beyond earthly categories.

Heaven is more than the absence of bad things and the accumulation of good things. It is far beyond anything this world can offer. Scripture says, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived - the things God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9). The sufferings of this world cannot compare to the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom 8:18).

Do you see the majesty of this teaching? We have a glory waiting for us beyond imagining. Consider your greatest pleasure, your happiest experience, your most fulfilled moment. Then multiply it by a thousand, or a million, or a trillion, and you are still not even close understanding the glory that awaits.

And this glory will transform us. The Lord once told Catherine of Siena that if she ever saw the glory of a saint in Heaven she would fall down and worship, because she would think she was looking at God. This is our dignity: to be transformed into the very likeness of God and reflect His glory. The following is a summary of St. Catherine's vision of the soul of a saint in Heaven:

It was so beautiful that she could not look on it; the brightness of that soul dazzled her. Blessed Raymond, her confessor, asked her to describe to him, as far as she was able, the beauty of the soul she had seen. St. Catherine thought of the sweet light of that morning, and of the beautiful colors of the rainbow, but that soul was far more beautiful. She remembered the dazzling beams of the noonday sun, but the light which beamed from that soul was far brighter. She thought of the pure whiteness of the lily and of the fresh snow, but that is only an earthly whiteness. The soul she had seen was bright with the whiteness of Heaven, such as there is not to be found on earth. “My father,” she answered. “I cannot find anything in this world that can give you the smallest idea of what I have seen. Oh, if you could but see the beauty of a soul in the state of grace, you would sacrifice your life a thousand times for its salvation. I asked the angel who was with me what had made that soul so beautiful, and he answered me, “It is the image and likeness of God in that soul, and the Divine Grace which made it so beautiful.” [1].

Yes, Heaven is glorious and we shall be changed. Scripture says, we shall be like the Lord for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself (Phil 3:19). I have written more on our resurrected bodies here: What will our resurrected bodies be like?

Too many people have egocentric notions of Heaven, where I will have a mansion, I will see my relatives, and I will be able to play all the golf I want. But the heart of Heaven is to be with God, for whom our heart longs. In God we will experience fulfillment and peace that is beyond earthly imagination. Heaven is far greater than golf, mansions, and family reunions. There is certainly more to it than clouds and harps. Heaven can never be described because it is beyond words. St Paul speaks of a man (himself) who was caught up into Heaven; he affirms that it cannot be described; it is ineffable; it is unspeakable.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven …. And I know that this man - whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows - was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell (2 Cor 12:2-3).

Do you long for heaven? Do you meditate on it? Is there a part of you that can't wait to get there? There's an old spiritual that says, “I'm gonna ride the Chariot in the morning, Lord. I'm gettin' ready for the judgment day, my Lord, my Lord!”

III. Response to the Resurrection

What difference does the resurrection make other than to give us joy if we meditate upon it? To see that answer, consider today's first reading, in which the seven brothers are willing to accept torture and death rather than violate God's Law. If there is a great reward awaiting those who remain faithful, then we will endure anything to get there. Notice how the vision of Heaven inspires them stand firm in their refusal to deny their faith:

We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors. … [Y]ou are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying. … Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing (2 Maccabees, 7:2,9, 12).

Their vision of the rewards awaiting them motivated them to endure the awful sufferings described in the 7th Chapter of 2nd Maccabees.

And what of us?

Do we meditate on Heaven and value its reward enough to be willing to endure suffering to get there? We need a strong vision of Heaven to be able to endure and stand firm. Too many people today have lost a deep appreciation of Heaven. Too many pray to God merely for worldly comforts and rewards - but these will pass. We ought to ask God for a deep desire for Heaven and the things awaiting us there.

What athlete would discipline his body as severely as he does without the deep motivation of the satisfaction and rewards that will come upon meeting his goals? What college student would attend hundreds of hours of classes, read scores of books, and write lengthy papers if it were not for the rewarding career at the end of the trail? Who of us will endure the trials of faith if we are not deeply imbued with the vision of glory and deeply desirous of its fulfillment no matter the cost? Without this, our spiritual life becomes tepid and our willingness to endure trials falls away. An old hymn says,

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Meditate on Heaven often.

Although we can never fully grasp its glory, we ought not to let that stop us from imagining it as best we can. In particular, read Revelation chapters 4,5, 8, 21, and 22. But above all, ask God for an ever-deepening desire for Him and the good things that await you in Heaven. Look to Heaven; long for Heaven. Desire God and deeply root your life in Him. Heaven will not disappoint!

This African-American spiritual says,

I'm gonna ride the chariot in the morning, Lord.
I'm getting' ready for the judgment day, my Lord, my Lord!

Are you ready my brother? (Oh yes!)
Are you ready for the journey? (Oh Yes!)

Do you want to see Jesus (Yes, Yes!)
I'm waiting for the chariot 'cause I ready to go.

I never can forget that day,
(Ride in the chariot to see my Lord!).
My feet were snatched from the miry clay!
(Ride in the chariot to see my Lord!)

The Paths of Glory Lead But to The Grave
Contributed by Dr. Jacob Naduparambil, Ohio

We studied this Elegy in English class (B.Sc). Those are among the versus struck in my mind for long time...

I remember those verses from Elegy written in a country churchyard:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave
Awaits alike the inevitable hour
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Praying for the Living and the Dead - A Spiritual Work of Mercy

by Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington

What is the value of one prayer? I suspect it is far greater than any of us imagine. Prayer changes things, sometimes in obvious ways, more often in subtle and even paradoxical ways. But prayer is surely important, even when we don't experience its immediate effects. Perhaps this is why Jesus taught us to pray always and never to lose heart (cf Luke 18:1). St. Paul echoed this with the simple exhortation, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). St. James also warned, "You have not because you ask not" (James 4:2).

Perhaps one of the greatest joys of Heaven will be seeing how much of a difference our prayers made, even the distracted and perfunctory ones. Perhaps our simple utterances at the end of a decade of the rosary to "Save us from the fires of Hell" and "Lead all souls to Heaven" will reach the heart of one lost soul, prompting him to answer the gentle call of God to return. Imagine that in Heaven that very sinner comes up to you and says, "Though we never met, your prayer reached me and God applied His power to me." Imagine the joy of many such meetings in Heaven. Imagine, too, whom you will joyfully thank for their prayers, people you know and some you never met. But they prayed and the power of their prayers reached you.

To pray for the living is a great and wondrous spiritual work of mercy; its value is beyond that of gold or pearls. Yes, what is the value of one prayer? The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful in in its effects (James 5:16). Prayer can avert war, bring healing, cause conversion, bestow peace and serenity, and call down mercy—sweet, necessary, and beautiful mercy. Prayer is inestimable; its value can never be told.

Praying for the dead, however, is a spiritual work of mercy that has suffered in recent decades. Too many Catholics today "miss a step" when a loved one dies. There are often immediate declarations that the deceased is "in Heaven" or "in a better place." But Scripture doesn't say that we go right to Heaven when we die. No, indeed, there is a brief stopover at the judgment seat of Christ.

The Letter to the Hebrews says, It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Heb 9:27). And St. Paul writes, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10).

Our deceased loved ones go to the judgment seat of Christ, and that is worth praying about!

But what is the judgment for those who lived faithful lives? In such cases, the judgment is not merely about the ultimate destination of Heaven or Hell. The judgment would seem to be "Is My work in you complete?"

Indeed, the Lord has made all of us a promise: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mat 5:48). Such a beautiful promise! And yet most of us know that we are not in such a state now. If we were to die today it is clear that much work would still be required. Thus when we send our faithful loved ones to judgment, although we send them with hope, we are aware that finishing work may be necessary. Purgation and purification are necessary before entering Heaven, of which scripture says, Nothing impure will ever enter it (Rev 21:27).

Again, this is worth praying about. It is a great work of mercy we can extend to our deceased loved ones, to remember them with love and to pray, in the words of St. Paul, May God who has begun a good work in you bring it to completion (Phil 1:6). Pray often for the souls in Purgatory. Surely there are joys there for them, knowing that they are on their way to Heaven. But surely there are also sufferings that purgation must cause. St Paul says of Purgatory, Each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor 3:13-15). Yes, there is fire, but thank God it is a healing fire. There are tears, too, for Scripture says (regarding the dead) that Jesus will wipe every tear from their eyes (Rev 21:4).

How consoling and merciful our prayers must seem to our beloved who have died! How prayers must seem like a gentle wind that speeds them along, onward and upward toward Heaven!

Praying for the dead, then, is the last and greatest spiritual work of mercy. By the grace of it, and through its help, souls attain the glory God has prepared for them from the foundation of the world.

Confidence in the Face of Death

by John MacArthur

"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
(Philippians 1:21)

We can count on Scripture to give us confidence in the face of death.

A few years ago my radio ministry heard from a listener who was exhibiting exactly the right attitude in the face of a terminal illness. A teenager from the Midwest sent a prayer request concerning her recently diagnosed Lou Gehrig's disease. That Christian young woman, who by now is probably with the Lord, accepted her condition with grace and optimism. Here is part of what she wrote to us: "I love the Lord very much and feel the Lord is using my condition to work in different peoples' lives. Please pray with me that He would continue to use me no matter what the outcome."

Her sentiments were right in step with Philippians 1:21, in which the apostle Paul proclaims his joy and confidence at the possibility of death. What enabled him to rejoice was his complete confidence in the Word of God.

Earlier Paul had articulated his trust in God's promises when he wrote these familiar words in Romans 8:28, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Now he shared verbatim with the Philippians from Job 13:16, "For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance" (Phil. 1:19). That too was a trustworthy promise from the Word, and it made Paul confident that his current trials would have a positive outcome.

Whether suffering was of long or short duration, Paul knew that the righteous would be delivered from their temporal trials. That was certainly borne out when God restored Job from his difficult, lengthy ordeal of testing.

Knowing all this, and realizing that all of God's written Word is available to us, we can certainly have Paul's type of confidence as we consider the inevitability of death. And we can "keep on rejoicing" (1 Peter 4:13), even if it's the Lord's will that we experience an early departure from this life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the provision of His Word, which is such an infallible guide as you deal with the uncertainties of death. Pray for someone you know at your church or in your neighborhood who may be facing death right now.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 34:17, 19; 37:39-40; 91:3; 97:10. What theme runs through these verses that would help you deal as you ought with trials and sufferings?

Source: Grace to

6 Ways to be a Good Friend in Times of Grief

by Emily Maust Wood

Grief is hard. Even professionals trained to help people cope admit that they feel ill equipped from time to time. We weren't born knowing how to handle grief – we seem made for a life without it.

Even though there's no end to the list of ways to serve someone who's hurting, sometimes that intimidates us and cripples us from reaching out. But being a good friend through grief isn't exclusively the territory of those of us who are trained or especially talented at giving advice and organizing meal deliveries. With a few guidelines, it's something we all can do.

1. Listen without Judging or Advising

Nobody calls you at 3 a.m. for a pat answer. They're calling to know that someone's out there, in their loss, with them.

For now, be okay with not having an answer. Further, be okay with not giving an answer even if you think you have one. Don't tell them how they're feeling; let them tell you. Sometimes we steer clear of a friend in crisis because we don't know what to say, but unless their situation calls for immediate action, we can save our advice and anecdotes. No matter how stellar your stories might be, try letting them rest until another day and simply listen.

2. Validate the Experience of Grief

When a loved one dies, we assure the family, "You'll see her again!" When a friend goes through a bad breakup we say things like, "At least you didn't marry him." We dishonor their experience when we simplify in this way.

Because loss disturbs us so deeply, our impulse is to fill that awkward, empty space in sympathy cards and funeral homes and on the phone, when it feels like nothing else can be said but something should be, with things that sound to us like hope. We desperately want it to be easier for our friends, but we dishonor their grief when we say things like, "It could have been worse," and remind them to be thankful that it wasn't.

It might be true that having bits of life untouched by loss will make recovery a little easier eventually. But right now, everything is touched by loss. What your friend needs in that moment is to face the loss squarely and to grieve it for what it is -- not to feel guilty for being unable to put a positive spin on the chaos.

3. Support the Process

Some people grieve by being quiet, contemplative, or withdrawn. Some people grieve by shouting unrepeatable things at the heavens. Both are okay, and both require safe places to express the grief. That first wave of grief doesn't show up in measured doses; it just hits you. To feel that is healthy – not something we should repress.

Minimizing, telling someone, "I wish you didn't feel so bad," heaps guilt on top of grief. It communicates that your comfort -and not your friend's healing- is your priority. Someone who respects your wish not to be made uncomfortable then has to choose whether to express this pain elsewhere or to hide it from you. Neither is a good way to keep a friend close.

These expressions of pain at seeing someone else's pain usually come from a place of empathy. It's natural to hurt when someone else hurts. It indicates that we're probably not sociopaths, which counts as a healthy thing in my book. The trouble comes when we take it a step further and impose our own personality, experience, and theories on grief on someone else.

You might be armed with resilience and a brilliant testimony and excellent theories on grief, but no one can perfectly guide anyone else's healing process. The best thing that you can do is simply stay beside them, supporting their unique process.

4. Give Grace

It's hard to be pushed away by a grieving person, or to be on the receiving end of the requisite anger, especially if you've grown to count on this person for something that they can't offer at the moment.

No one gets a free pass for injuring anyone, and healthy boundaries are still in play. But when we're in the midst of grief, our world is suddenly full of triggers, and normal cycles of life seem foreign. (Everything has changed – how is it possible that the mail is still being delivered?)

In that place, social graces sometimes take a backseat to survival. The occasional exhibit of bad manners doesn't mean that we dislike you; it means that we feel safe around you. We'll come around.

5. Don't Fix

It's hard, when we're so thoroughly schooled on time management, retirement planning, and life coaching, to realize how little control we truly have over our lives. We adore the illusion of control. When our naiveté runs out, and we stand there stunned by the violence of the forces that tear the precious things from us, we scramble for a semblance of security. We can't ever be ready for that moment.

Witnessing someone else's experience of loss triggers our own fears of loss, so we react to our lack of control in the world by grasping for control over our friends' reactions.

When we try to fix someone else, we take on a mission that's never ours. We end up urging our friends to shortcut the necessary work that they need to do, give a nice testimony in church, and move on. People who seem to bounce back quickly might keep us more comfortable, but these people probably have some serious reflection left to do.

The temptation to appear healed before we truly are healed is strong in our self-reliant culture. This happens even in the church, where we react to loss with offerings of hope and commandments about joy instead of holding and comforting and "mourning with those who mourn," as we've been told to do. We know that there's light at the end of the tunnel and, in that case, we'd like to skip the tunnel altogether and fast-forward to the happy ending.

Healing is always a process, and an often uncomfortable one. What we need is a safe place to let that process unfold. The sooner we embrace that our job is simply to be with our friends in their journey, the sooner they'll feel like we're on their team.

6. Stay

We hear that children who have been removed from harmful environments often push against the love of their new support system, not in hopes that it will give, but that it will hold. Adults aren't especially different. Even subconsciously, sometimes we start to test the staying power of our support system, afraid, and asking, "Are you sure you still want to be here?" Where hard times come as seasons and aren't a pattern of a destructive relationship, I believe the answer should be yes.

We often relegate teachings about everlasting love to sermons on marriage and hanging our heads over the divorce rate, but that everlasting loving-kindness (in the Old Testament, the Hebrew hesed) speaks to all kinds of relationships.

Months after the first round of cards and visitors and lasagna (why is it always lasagna?) has come and gone, months after it seems like most people have forgotten, the people who are left there beside us, following our lead and honoring our story, are keepers – even if they think they're clueless and unqualified.

We always have the hope of light after darkness, but sometimes what we need most is a friend who will sit beside us in the dark, saying nothing, and wait with us for the light.

About The Author:

Emily Maust Wood is a freelance editor and fitness coach. Charmed by the idea of restoring an old home, she chronicles the adventure at

Source: Daily Update


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