We have no idea what is in store—no idea of how loved we are and how loved we will be for all of eternity. The Scripture the past Sunday, the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, on November 6, spoke of the next life, the eternal life. In that existence, we “neither marry nor are we given in marriage.” What will be, aside from love, we do not know. “Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has planned for us.”
These thoughts of the hereafter bring to mind a discovery I made several years back while I was considering one of Father Anthony De Mello’s meditations. Fr. De Mello was a Jesuit priest from India who died in 1987. Although criticized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he did nevertheless write some intriguing suggestions for meditation. One of his typical invitations was to consider what I would say or do today, if I were to know with certainty that my life were soon to be over. He invited prayer about the hereafter. Knowing of the Church's posthumous critique, I was always mindful of discerning where some De Mello writing I had in front of me might have run afoul of Catholic orthodoxy. It kept me alert and, in so doing, I think it deepened the opportunity for prayer. I truly needed to be and wanted to be mindful of the theology.
The discovery I made in one of De Mello’s guided meditations involved his suggestion that, as we deepen our relationship with God in the next life, we gradually disappear. I recollect the image that we are like a drop of water entering into the ocean. Quite immediately, there is nothing more of us. Our personalities, our souls and identities become merged into God’s.
Although there is indeed no reason to think that my puny self has any great claim on eternity, the fact is that De Mello’s idea seems to ignore the fact that God in fact loves me for who I am. Undoubtedly insignificant in earth’s history, undoubtedly to be forgotten by my descendants in one hundred years from now (if not many decades earlier than that), I am nevertheless more important than a drop of water in the ocean. I am important because God loves me.
No matter how weak or small or insignificant from the world’s view a child (or today, a grandchild) of mine is, the child is valued—beyond measure—because of who the child is. One of De Mello’s own phrases would ask if I think I were a more complete lover than God. If I can love a child who is “insignificant,” surely God in his infinite mercy will love me forever more. I can see why De Mello, despite his many good works, can be said to have, on occasion, gone astray. In his humility, perhaps he forgot that God “is not God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
We are alive hereafter. We do not disappear.