I really do want to get back to posting about Moral Theology issues, but this morning I was reminded of something that I learned while I was grieving for my first husband. I remember after Peter died someone sending me a card that said something along the lines of “We’re sorry for your ‘loss’ but as we know it’s not really a ‘loss’ because you’ll get to see your husband when you get to heaven.” I know that the family who sent me the card (who I didn’t know) meant to be comforting, but all that they managed to do with that card was enrage me. Yes, I was well aware of the fact that I would see my husband when I got to heaven (God willing), but I was indeed experiencing a real loss. While my husband’s spirit lived on in heaven, I was no longer able to touch him, see him, and hear his voice. I had indeed lost that ability; I had indeed lost something very precious. I quickly threw the card into the trash and tried not to think ill of the people who sent it.
Many months later, this card came to mind as I was sitting in mass. I thought about how much I missed the physical presence of my husband, and it suddenly occurred to me how much the Apostles must have missed Jesus when he died, and then later, again, after he ascended. That was something that I had never really thought about before. Granted, the time between his crucifixion and resurrection was only a few days, and they were probably so shell shocked as they came to grips with the situation that I’m sure “missing” Jesus was not the first thing on their mind. I never really thought about them missing his presence on a human level after the Ascension. Of course, though, they would miss him on a human level. They had left their entire lives behind so that they could spend three years on the road with him. They didn’t merely follow behind him, rather, they shared their lives with him. They ate with him, laughed with him, cried with him, were confused by him, watched people reject him, and learned from him. They also knew how he smiled when the children came running to him, knew his favorite foods, knew how he slipped away to get time to pray, knew how tenderly he loved his Mother, knew the games he liked to play, and knew how tired he was when the crowds wouldn’t leave him alone. Of course they missed his presence as God, but they also probably just missed being with him as Man, and talking, walking, eating, and traveling with him. It then occurred to me that the gift of the Eucharist must have been so very, very precious to them because in the Eucharist they could physically touch Jesus again. They didn’t have to wait to get to heaven to do that — they could touch him and feel him here on earth. What strength and peace that knowledge must have given them.
Yes, I will have to wait until I get to heaven to see my husband again. But, I don’t have to wait until heaven to touch and see my Savior. He comes to me in a physical way every time I receive him in the Eucharist. This gift is now infinitely more precious to me.