I mentioned in a previous blog on the Resurrection of Jesus (Feb 20, 2013) that books about life after death are popular today. The blog for Publishers Weekly lists among recent best sellers: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife Eben Alexander, Author. Does the book tell us we would rather learn about life after death from scientists rather than from people of faith? How much can science tell us anyway?
I was thinking of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in the gospel. The rich man wants someone to come back from the dead to warn his brothers who, like him, aren’t paying any attention to the poor. No one will be sent, says Abraham from the world beyond.
‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’ Luke 16,19ff.
We have to listen to people of faith. In that same blog there was the encouraging news that sales of Benedict’s books on Jesus of Nazareth are up since his resignation.
Perhaps the key to that passage is that the rich man wants “someone to come back from the dead to warn his brothers.” The emphasis is on ‘warn’. That is what Abraham is referring to, that they have Moses and the prophets, that our “warning” comes through the prophets and the scriptures. But we should be cautious not to jump to the conclusion that God does not send messages “from the world beyond” to do other than warn—like affirm, anoint, and commission. That we see in scripture, God does. Apropos, one such example is this Sunday’s Gospel, the Transfiguration, where we see two men from the world beyond, Moses and Elijah, conversing with Jesus as witnessed by Peter, John, and James, men very much still “alive.”
We also see it in the lives of other saints. I find myself thinking of St. Gemma’s autobiography, where she tells us that St. Gabriel came to her several times. He certainly is on the other side and he came to communicate with Gemma, that is if we are to believe St. Gemma. Perhaps the key then, is that St. Gabriel didn’t come to her to warn, but more so to encourage and guide her. But none-the-less a man who had “died” was used by God to communicate to one still in this “alive.”
I like to believe God does this quite often, more often than our “modern” minds allow us to observe. So often that “I doubt there would be room enough in the entire world to hold the books to record them.” (John 21:25)