Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Questions from a GW student

A GW student asks two questions:

1) "With all this evidence (about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist) why don't the Protestants believe that the bread and wine become the Blood and Body of Jesus Christ?"

Short answer: Because the Protestant Reformers (circa 16th cent.) taught that the Eucharist is only a symbol of Christ's flesh and blood, and changed the translation of our Lord's words at the Last Supper from "this is my body" to "this symbolizes my body".

2)"Is there any scriptures that describes what heaven will be truly like?"

The following are excerpts from a booklet, "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory", written by Rev. Thomas Morrow:

"Our Blessed Lord refers to heaven using several different terms about 170 times in the gospels. He uses the terms heaven, Kingdom of heaven, Kingdom of God, life, and eternal life to describe the place of eternal reward. He often speaks of the Kingdom of heaven by comparing it to things we are familiar with on earth:

The Kingdom of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field. He hid it again, and rejoicing at his find went and sold all he had and bought that field. Or again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant's search for fine pearls. When he found one really valuable pearl, he went back and put up for sale all that he had and bought it. (Mt 13:44-46)

Twice he speaks of the Kingdom as being like a wedding feast (Mt 22:1+, Mt 25:1+), as does the author of the book of Revelation (Rv 19:7+). When Peter asks Jesus what the apostles can expect for giving up everything to follow him, Our Lord replies:

I give you my word, there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children or property for me and for the gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many homes, brothers and sisters, mothers, children and property-and persecution besides-and in the age to come, everlasting life. (Mk 10:29,30)

Thus, Our Lord clearly speaks of the Kingdom of heaven as something very valuable, worth selling all you have to possess, as a feast celebrating a commitment of love, and as a rich reward for whatever sacrifice we make here on earth.St. Paul speaks of heaven in glowing terms:

Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor. 2:9)

The author of the Book of Revelation promises the end of all physical evils:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heavens had passed away, and the sea was no longer. I also saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne cry out: 'This is God's dwelling place among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain; for the former world has passed away.' (Rev 21:1-4) ...

Over the years I have often asked my students what they thought heaven might be like, and the answers were frequently something like the following: 'A nice place, with clouds, lots of angels, gold streets, etc.' Not bad, I told them, but we should be able to do better than that. One thing we can be certain of is that Heaven must be better than the most exciting and enjoyable moments we have ever experienced on this earth. I suggested to the students that... no matter what picture they might paint of what they would like Heaven to be, it will surely be better than that. Some spoke of a Disney World, others of a candy tree, and others of a great pizza parlor (that great pizza parlor in the sky). One boy described his ideal as being on a Caribbean Island with lots of native girls feeding him grapes. (!)

Perhaps the best insights as to the joys of heaven are those given by (those) who likened it to being in a perfect marriage with the perfect Spouse. This beautiful image is very much in line with the scriptural themes found in the Song of Songs, a story of passionate love between the Lord and his people, Ezekiel 16, the story of the marriage covenant between God and an unfaithful woman, and Hosea 2, story of God luring back his promiscuous spouse. When we think that the beauty of the most beautiful of God's creatures on earth (both men and women) is only a faint image of the beauty of God, these creatures for whom our hearts burn in this life, it is beyond understanding how deep will be our passionate love for God, our true Spouse in Heaven.

Regarding the different levels in Heaven, the following comparison might be made. If a person were to attend an opera having attended many operas, and having studied opera for many years and come to know it and love it well, he would no doubt be able to appreciate the performance better than someone who knew very little about opera. The capacity to enjoy the opera would be greater in the opera buff than in the other person. So, likewise will our capacity to appreciate the vision of God be greater in Heaven if we come to know Him well while we live on this earth.

What about our loved ones? Will we see them in heaven? Yes, the common theological opinion is that we will know and love all of God's creations, including the angels, saints and those whom we have known in this life. The 'communion of saints' will continue into eternity."

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