I was planning to write some interesting stories about my relatives who have passed away. You see, there have been some rather eccentric and colorful characters in my family tree. The wild adventures they engaged in don’t even need any exaggeration. I figured since they are no longer with us, they can’t complain if I reveal a few hilarious, if somewhat embarrassing, details from the past.
But then I remembered: I can’t write about my deceased aunts and uncles and grandparents because I’m Catholic. As a Catholic, I believe in the Communion of Saints. By the way, even if I were not Catholic, I’d have to believe in the Communion of Saints because it says so right in the Bible.
Well, you won’t find the specific phrase “Communion of Saints” in the Scriptures. But the epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament lists many famous saints who are now in Heaven, and then offers this remarkable statement: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb 12:1).
In other words, the folks who went before us in faith, that great cloud of witnesses in Heaven, are watching us. It’s as if they’re in the grandstands of a sports stadium, cheering for us as we compete on the playing field.
So, my wacky ancestors are not really gone. They are in the Lord’s heavenly kingdom, and they are paying close attention to us down here. I guess I’ll have to save those embarringly funny stories for another time—most likely when I finally join my relatives in the Heavenly bleachers. When that reunion occurs, we are going to have quite a few belly laughs, most of which, I suspect, will be at my expense since they’ve been keeping an eye on me all these years.
The Communion of Saints is a fascinating truth, and many Christians ignore it. Most believers are confident that those who died in faith are now in Heaven, but they think their loved ones are hidden away in some far distant outpost of the heavenly universe, completely out of wifi range to be able to observe us today. (OK, there is another aspect of all this that I should mention here: the Church’s teaching about Purgatory. Those who die in God’s grace, but with a lot of sinful baggage still clinging to them, must have their selfish attitudes and bad habits washed away before entering into the perfect joy of God’s presence. This purifying process is called Purgatory. The good news is that everybody who goes to Purgatory eventually ends up in Heaven for all eternity. We’ll have to examine this topic in more detail some day in the future.)
Those who have gone before us are not out of touch and unaware of events back here on earth. They are in a mysterious and wonderful state-of-being right now, where they are aware of us—our joys and our fears, our triumphs and our struggles. Most of all, their main job is to pray for us, because Scripture says, “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (James 5:16).
The Bible also tells us repeatedly to pray for one another. Who best to intercede on our behalf than those who already fought the good fight here on earth and now are in the presence of the Lord? Instead of telling humorous and somewhat embarrassing stories about my ancestors, I instead should thank them for teaching me the faith, and then ask them to continue praying that I, and all my loved ones, fight the good fight and win the race.
So, this means I am going to refrain from telling you some of the goofy and comical things that my departed relatives did during their lives here on earth. If you want to hear those tales, ask me when we get to Heaven. I’ll be in the bleachers with my family. You’ll be able to find us easily since we’ll be the ones laughing hysterically.