Reverend Bob Dangel, our deacon, led our class on the New Testament at 6 P.M. on Wednesday September 28 at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada. Among the topics discussed were the healing of the paralytic, favorite sacraments, the Physical Presence in the Sacraments, and catechesis of our young children.
Entering the class, those attending saw copies of the Bible in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greet, Latin, and Latin. This reminded the class that our tradition goes back all the way to Jesus, and to Moses.
Reverend Bob presented the view that his favorite sacrament was confession, as this purifies us and brings us back into the community. The next view presented was that the Mass with the sacrament of the Eucharist is a favorite. It related to confession. The bonding brings us to community. The passage from the Bible was Deuteronomy 5:1-6. The selection emphasized was “It is not to your fathers that I cut this Social Contract, but with you, each of you, standing here, this day.” The passage continues after a few verses, Remember, “I am God your Mighty Judge who rescued you from land of oppression, the house of menial labor.”
We remember our oppression and our rescue. We relive our rescue experience through the Passion of Jesus Christ we relive it for the first time, each time, we celebrate the Mass. Through the transfiguration, Matthew 17:1-8, we find the first reading in the presence on the mountain of Moses, the second reading relives the presence of Elijah, and Jesus is present through the Gospel. We feel the presence of the descending cloud, the booming thunder of the mountain as it belches gases, and watch as the mountain swallows our friends. Through the experience of this event, our participation with Jesus as he undergoes the Passion, we die with Christ, and we rise with Christ.
The class discussed near-death experiences as they relate to this experience. We die with Christ, just as people who under near-death experiences undergo a very traumatic experience. We also discussed how people who undergo near-death experiences undergo a complete change of personality. They no longer fear death. Been there, done that. It was nice there. We are eager to undergo that experience again. In order to get there, we must become like the loving presence that was there. When people who undergo this experience return to earth, they are eager to share that sense of peace with others. They become loving, caring, people.
This brought us to a discussion of heaven. The group discussed many views of the place. One of the more interesting was the view that the Hebrew word for heaven literally means, “The of Waters.” Waters flow, as was discussed, as do days. Day and Water in Hebrew are the same word, as was mentioned. We can find heaven here on earth. The view presented by several people in the room was the need constantly to strive to create heaven on earth, and find it in our brothers and sisters.
Deacon Bob asked the group if this means there is no heaven other than the heaven here on earth. The point made was that in the Mass we say, “Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.” There is also that wonderful place where people who undergo near-death experiences go.
Deacon Bob discussed heaven as being a place where God fills us with compassion and we live in the tranquil communion of heaven. Another example given was that of a movie theater. God fills each of us with compassion and God shows us movies of our lives. If we lived lives of compassion, it is a great movie. If we lived miserly lives, it is a horror movie and we are in hell.
Deacon Bob asked, “What of those like the thief in the Gospel of St. Luke?” The reply was that God edits the film if we repent, even at the last instant. God removes all the bad aspects of our lives and we see a great film. One question asked was, “How can God expect us to behave ourselves in heaven, care for each other in heaven, get along with each other and make heaven a tranquil place, if we do not do those things down here?” The point made was that we must get in practice down here, because if we do not, God may not want us up there. If we practice, we will have earth down here and at the second coming.