Browsing Pastor's Corner

First Phone Call from Heaven

Jan 17, 2018

In today’s readings…the theme of being called is prevalent. The first reading is the call of Samuel: Speak Lord your servant is listening.  Or from the Gospel we hear Jesus say to who will be His first Apostles: Come and See.

To call someone is to seek a connection with another. And connections can only be made by a response, which connects the caller to the called.  One may perhaps wonder if Jesus walked the Earth today, would He have used an I phone?  I mean think about how significant the telephone has been in our lives:

The news of life is carried via a telephone. A baby’s birth, a couple engaged, a tragic car accident on a late night highway…most milestones of the human journey, good or bad, are foreshadowed by the sound of a ringing or vibration.

Remember that endearing commercial ad campaign from AT and T back in 1979: Reach out reach out and touch someone. Talk about an ad that gets to the very heart of who we are and what we most desire. 

That “touch” implies intimacy…a being brought together by love, caring and concern. We are created to be intimately connected to each other because of who created us.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Three eternally loving persons who are forever in communion and connected to each other.  And this all tender and all loving connection is extended to include all of us with them and with each other.

But how then does one cope when those intimate connections in life are impaired because of loss, hurt or separation…or completely cut because of dying and death? Mitch Albom addresses that issue in his very engaging book entitled: The First Phone Call from Heaven: A page-turning mystery and a meditation on the power of human and divine connection.

One morning in the small town of Coldwater, Michigan, the phones start ringing. The voices say they are calling from heaven. Is it the greatest miracle ever? Or some cruel hoax? As news of these strange calls spreads, outsiders flock to Coldwater to be a part of it.

At the same time, a disgraced pilot named Sully Harding returns to Coldwater from prison to discover his hometown gripped by “miracle fever.” Even his young son carries a toy phone, hoping to hear from his mother in heaven.

As the calls increase, and proof of an afterlife begins to surface, the town—and the world—transform. Only Sully, convinced there is nothing beyond this sad life, digs into the phenomenon, determined to disprove it for his child and his own broken heart.

A story of desperate hope that moves seamlessly between the invention of the telephone in 1876 and a world obsessed with the next level of communication.

In fact the inventor of the telephone Alexander Bell met the love of his life, Mabel, when she came to him as a deaf student. Bell fell for her hard, and over the years, her encouragement spurred him on his work. Had her tears not drown him onto that train car to Philadelphia, his greatest invention might never have blossomed. Yet the telephone remained something that Mabel, who'd lost her hearing from scarlet fever, would never be able to share with her husband.

It is said that the earliest spark for the telephone came when Alexander Bell was still in his teens. He noticed how, if he sang a certain note near an open piano, the string of that note would vibrate, as if singing back to him. He sang an A; the A string shook. The idea of connecting voices through a wire was born. But it was not a new idea. We call out; we are answered. It has been that way from the beginning of belief, and it continues to this very moment.

We call out, we are answered, we are connected. And Scripture knows this to be true for we hear this passage from the Book of Hebrews:

In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; 2in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe… and who sustains all things by his mighty word.

And the way in which God answers our call for help…our call to be recognized, loved, healed, and held? For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son…not as a Spirit, not as a ghost…not an apparition or some warm fuzzy feeling in the heart…but sent Him in the Flesh, a human body…with a human voice to speak, a human mind to think, ears to hear, eyes to see, a heart to feel, and hands and arms to embrace and hold…entering fully into our human nature and condition.

But the irony is that we are the ones who have been first called by Him and from all eternity. The problem is not so much with God listening as it is our responding.  We were called forth from eternity to be in communion with God and each other.

Just as Mabel’s illness and handicap was the inspiration for Bell’s invention…our sins and the terrible sufferings and death they cause us is the catalyst for the Incarnation and our redemption…for God becoming of us.

As Saint Paul says today: The Lord is for the body…so much so that literally He has a body. And it is this body that has established our connection with God…the bridge that extends from Heaven to Earth connecting them and reconnecting all of us. 

Sin severed that initial connection and the Resurrection of Christ’s body has forever restored and infinitely improved it especially by way of reception…no staticy reception here, for in the Holy Eucharist, we receive that body, that precious blood spilled for our sake, that glorious soul and fullness of His divinity…the ultimate connection…since we are connected to God.

This is why the Church is referred to as the Body of Christ. Mass is the most intimate form of speaking, listening, embracing and staying connected.  We listen to the word of God then receive that Word Made Flesh in the Holy Eucharist.  The Lord is so for the body that God raised the Lord and will also raise us and our bodies by that same power as Saint Paul insists.

One of the quotes from the book: knowing Heaven is what heals us on earth. In Heaven we can see you.  We can feel you.  We know your pain, your tears, but we feel no pain or tears ourselves.  There are no bodies here…there is no age.  The old who come are no different than children.  No one feels alone.  We are all in the light, the light is grace and we are part of the one great thing.

And the one great thing is the Holy Trinity. We are a part of that…connected to it because of the Body of Christ.  There are no bodies there as yet…but at the conclusion of history, we hear these wonderfully encouraging and exciting words from Scripture:

Let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die,[c] this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.[d]55 O death, where is your victory?     O death, where is your sting?

What then in life can love not penetrate? Mabel Hubbard, deaf since childhood, gave Alexander Bell a piano as a wedding gift and asked that he play it for her every day, as if his music could pierce her silence. Decades later, at Bell’s deathbed, it was his wife who made the sounds, saying the words, “Don’t leave me,” while he, no longer able to talk, used sign language to answer, No.”

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and that same power contained in the Holy Eucharist is God’s greatest sign to us of His promise to never ever leave us. As Mitch Albom writes: If we knew what comes next, we never would have worried.  Then again, as Christians we do know what comes next…we just have to prepare for it, here on earth.


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