Memorial St. Justin Martyr and Companions
[Scripture Readings: 2 Tim 1:1-3, 6-12; Mk 12:18-27 ]
“At the resurrection whose wife will she be?” Down the centuries people have wondered what heaven will be like. Is there sex in heaven? Will we eat food? Will we hang out with our family and friends? Can people in heaven look down and see us? Will we get bored? How can I be happy in heaven if someone I loved deeply on earth doesn’t make it? Can pets go to heaven? What age will we be? What language will we speak? Will there be any privacy? What will we do?
All these questions are about human happiness, as if that is what heaven is all about. But in heaven we will be sharers in God’s own divine nature, in divine happiness. What will that be like? Will we be able, like God, to create things out of nothing? Will there never be any past or future in heaven, because as Boethius writes, “eternity is the entire, simultaneous and perfect possession of unending life.”1 Does that mean we will be present to all of time all at once, and like God, be able to watch the beginning of creation, the big bang? Will we be able to know what everyone else is thinking?
St. Bernard describes heaven as, “The happy region of supernatural powers … the beatific vision of God, wisdom without ignorance, memory without forgetfulness, reason with confusion, understanding without error.2 On the other hand, the German philosopher, Friedrich Engels, thought of heaven as the “tedium of personal immortality.” Or, as one young boy expressed it, “If I’m very good in heaven do you think God will let me go and play with the devils?”
Divine happiness is so far beyond our ability to grasp that we end up reducing it to human happiness, or not thinking about it at all. But St. Benedict urges us “to desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit”3 like the martyrs, St. Justin and his companions. When asked, “Do you suppose that you will ascend into heaven?” Justin replied, “Not suppose, I know and am fully convinced of it.”4 The martyrs were so heavenly minded that they were no longer of any earthly use.
There are places today in the Middle East where Christians continue to give up their earthly lives because of the hope of they have for what God has promised. Let us also desire eternal life passionately!
1. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, Vol. 3, Book V, Revelation Insight Publishing Co, Brandon, FL.
2. St. Bernard, St. Bernard’s Sermons, vol. 3, On the Five Stores of Spiritual Traffic, Carroll Press, Maryland, p. 534.
3. St. Benedict, Rule for Monasteries, Ch. 4, Instruments of Good Works, #46, Liturgical Press, Collegeville.
4. The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs Justin Martyr, Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, Ch. 4, Henrickson Publishers, 1994.