The great Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner said, “We know there is a heaven. We should be very humble in what we claim to know about it.” And quite comforting is St. Therese of Lisieux, who said “I believe in Hell, but I believe it is empty.” I Timothy 2:4 says,“God desires [that] everyone be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”
The truth is that all of us have lost loved ones. Where are they? How are they? Our beloved who have died are transformed. In their transformation in Christ, they have become and are being something radically transcendent and new. Rahner writes: “The great mistake of many people… is to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. They do not leave us. They remain! Where are they? In the darkness? Oh, no. It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes radiant with glory, are fixed upon our eyes… Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent… They are living near us transfigured into light and power and love.”
Life eternal is not like a change of horses where we ride off into a far distant sunset on another stallion. Rahner taught that the resurrection means we become all we could ever have been. All the limits of this life are lifted and we are all we could ever hope and desire to be.
According to Jesuit David Stanley, the resurrection means that the Kingdom of God has arrived on this earth. New Testament authors intimate that heaven means we join Jesus in his reign over the “course of world history. Heaven… is not a kind of perennial ‘Old Folks Home.’ It is not simply a place of retirement and celestial repose for senior citizens of the kingdom of God. … heaven consists in the active participation in the glorified Christ’s direction of history” (Stanley, 1967, Pp. 282-284).
And know too, whenever we are celebrating the Eucharist “those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith” are deeply and radically present.