The Hope of Heaven
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! May our good Lord bless Mothers this day with consolation and joy! The month of May is dedicated to increased devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us ask Jesus and St. Joseph to teach us to practice great love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary! This weekend I share with you a reflection on Heaven. I encourage you to read it through a few times this week! “The Hope of Heaven - We have been created for Heaven. Fostering hope: During this forty-day period between Easter and the Ascension of Our Lord, the Church asks us to keep our eyes on Heaven, our final dwelling place, to which Our Lord is calling us. This invitation becomes more pressing as we approach the day on which Jesus went up to the right hand of His Father. Our Lord had promised His disciples that in a little while He would be with them forever. Yet a little while, and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. (John 14:19-20) Our Lord has kept His promise in this period when He stays close to His loved ones. But this presence will not end when He goes up with His glorious body to His Father, because, by His Passion and Death He has prepared for us a place in His Father’s house, where there are many mansions. (cf. John 14:2) I will come again, He tells them, and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:3) The Apostles, who had been saddened by the prediction of Peter’s denials, are comforted by the hope of Heaven. The return to which Our Lord is referring includes His second coming at the end of the world (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5; 11:26), and the meeting with each soul when it leaves the body. Our death will be just that: a meeting with Christ, Whom we have tried to serve throughout our lifetime. He will bring us to the fullness of glory, the meeting with His Heavenly Father, Who is also our Father. There in Heaven, where we have a place prepared for us, Jesus awaits us, the same Jesus Who is with us, Who awaits us in prayer and with Whom we have often been in intimate friendly conversation. From our regular conversations with Our Lord is born the desire to be with Him. Faith sweetens much of the bitterness of death. Our love for Jesus completely changes the meaning of that last moment which comes for everybody. Those in love try to see each other. People in love have eyes only for their love. That’s logical, isn’t it? The human heart feels this need. I would be lying if I denied my eagerness to contemplate the face of Jesus Christ. ‘Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram!’ I will seek Your countenance, O Lord. (J. Escriva, quoted in Newsletter No. 1 for the Cause of his beatification) The thought of Heaven will help us to be detached from the things of this world and to overcome difficult situations. We make God very happy when we foster that theological virtue of Hope, which is united with Faith and Love. There will be times when we need it a lot. At the time of temptation think of the Love that awaits you in Heaven: foster the virtue of Hope - this is not a lack of generosity. (ibid., The Way, 139) It will be likewise at moments of great sorrow and trial, and when we find it very hard to be faithful or persevering in our work or apostolate. The reward is a big one, and it is just around the corner, not long from now. Meditating on Heaven, which is our destination, ought to spur us on to be more generous in our daily struggle, because hope of the reward comforts the soul unto doing good works. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis, 348, 18, 1) The thought of that final meeting of love to which we are called will help us to be on our guard in big things and in little things, giving them the finishing touch, as if each one were to be the last before going to meet our Heavenly Father. What God has revealed about eternal life: Words are altogether inadequate for describing our life in Heaven, that life which God has promised to His children. The Church reminds us that we will be with Christ and ’we shall see God’ (cf. 1 John 3:2), and it is in these promises and marvelous mysteries that our hope essentially consists. Our imagination may be incapable of reaching these heights, but our heart does so, instinctively and completely. (S.C.D.F., Letter on Some Questions Concerning Eschatology, 17 January 1979) What we now but poorly discern by revelation, and can barely imagine in our present state, will one day become a joyful reality. In the Old Testament the happiness of Heaven is portrayed by evoking the Promised Land, which is reached after a very long, hard journey through the desert. There, in our new and permanent resting place, are to be found all benefits (cf. Ex. 3:17); there, the exhaustion caused by such a long and difficult pilgrimage will come to an end. Our Lord spoke to us in many ways of the incomparable happiness awaiting those who in this life, love God with deeds. Eternal happiness is one of the truths which our Lord preached with most insistence… For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have Eternal Life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40) Later, at the Last Supper, He says: Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, may be with Me where I am, to behold My glory which Thou hadst given Me in Thy Love for Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24) Everlasting happiness is compared to a banquet at which all the longings of the human heart for happiness will be unimaginably satisfied. (cf. Luke 13:29; 14:15) The Apostles often talk to us of that happiness which awaits us. St. Paul teaches that now we see God in a mirror dimly, but then face to face (1 Cor. 13:12), and that the happiness which we will enjoy there is indescribable. (1 Cor. 2:9)
The happiness of eternal life lies principally in the direct, immediate vision of God. It involves not only a perfect intellectual knowledge of God, but also a sharing of life with God, One and Triune. To see God is to live with Him, and to be happy with Him. And so, from this loving contemplation of the three divine Persons, an unlimited joy will arise in us. All the hunger for happiness and love of our poor heart will be satisfied unendingly, eternally. Let us imagine what Heaven will be like. ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the mind of man to imagine the things that God has prepared for those who love Him’. Can you imagine what it will be like to arrive there, and meet God, and see that beauty which pours into our hearts and satisfies without satiating our desire? I ask myself many times a day: what will it be like when all the beauty, all the goodness, all the infinite wonder of God pours into this poor clay vessel that I am, that we are. And then I understand well why the Apostle wrote: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard’… It is worth every effort, my children, it is indeed worth while. (J. Escriva, quoted in Newsletter No. 1 for the Cause of his beatification) The Resurrection of the Body. Thinking about Heaven should lead us to a determined and cheerful struggle to reach it: Apart from the immense joy of beholding God and of seeing and living with the risen, glorified Christ, there is also an accidental happiness, by means of which we will enjoy those created goods to which we aspire: the company of those blessed who we most loved down here - members of our family and friends; and also the glory of our risen bodies, because our risen body will be identical in all respects to our present body. St. Paul tells us that this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:53) This body, not another one the same, or very similar. The Trent Catechism says it is of vital importance to be fully convinced that the identical body, which belongs to each one of us during life, shall, though corrupt and dissolved into its original dust, be raised up again to life. (Catechism of the Council of Trent, I, XI, 7; cf. S.C.D.F., Declaration Concerning the Translation of the Article ‘Carnis Resurrectionem’ of the Apostles’ Creed, 14 December 1983) St. Augustine states clearly that this flesh will rise, the same which was buried… The flesh which now falls ill and suffers, this same flesh will rise again. (St. Augustine, Sermon 264, 6) Our personality will continue to be the same, and we will have our own body, but vested with glory and splendor, if we have been faithful. Our body will have the properties characteristic of glorious bodies: agility and subtlety, that is, not subject to the limitations of space and time; impassibility - He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more (Apoc. 21:4); and finally, brightness and beauty. I believe in the resurrection of the body, we say in the Apostles’ Creed. Our bodies in Heaven will have characteristics which are different from the present ones, but they will continue being bodies and will occupy a space (cf. M. Schmaus, Dogmatic Theology, VII, Madrid), as the glorious body of Christ and Our Lady do now. We do not know where that place is, nor how it comes about. The present earth will have been transformed: Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth; for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away… Behold I make all things new. (cf. Apoc. 21:1ff) Many Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and also many saints, have thought that the renewal of the whole created order arises from revelation itself.
Now that the day of Our Lord’s Ascension is close, the thought of Heaven should lead us to a more determined and cheerful struggle to get rid of the obstacles which separate us from Christ. It also encourages us to seek in the first place the goods which last instead of craving for those that perish. The thought of Heaven gives great serenity. Nothing here is irreparable, nothing is definitive, all wrongs can be righted. The only definitive defeat would be to miss the door which leads to Life. Our Lady is there too, waiting for us.” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may God bless us with a great desire to have a share in the Eternal love of God in Heaven! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel