Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J

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The New Jerusalem; this is the end, the goal and the purpose of our journey of faith. When was the last time you thought of the goal and the purpose of your life? When was the last time you thought of heaven not as a dogma of the Church, something you have to believe, but as your home, the place to which you are slowly but hopefully wending your way? Perhaps you are thinking, “Heaven may be my home but I am not homesick.”

On those rare occasions when we do think of heaven we think of it as an appendage to this life. We think that if we live this life well, at the end we will get some sort of a citation or congressional medal. The truth is that this life is only the preface, the preparation for the next life, the life that really is worth living. Our journey of faith leads us to God by whom we were created, for whom we were created and without whom we can never be truly happy.

It is unfortunate that we do not think of heaven more often because we lose a very powerful incentive to persevere on the journey of faith. The thought of heaven removes the fear of death. “O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy victory?” Death is the door to life. In death life is changed not ended. “Unless the grain of wheat falling to the ground dies it remains alone, but if it dies it will bring forth fruit.”

The thought of heaven also gives us comfort at the loss of a loved one. We know that the loss is only temporary, we will see them again and be with them forever. The thought of heaven also gives us courage when the going gets tough. It gives us the peace that the world cannot give and no one can take from us. It puts things in perspective, and makes us realize that this life is not the ultimate value.

Perhaps we do not think of heaven because we think that it is wrong to work for a reward. We think that we should serve God out of disinterested love. Jesus didn’t think so. Jesus is the greatest motivational speaker ever to walk the face of this earth. He knew how to use the carrot as well as the stick. He often used the hope of reward as a powerful motivating force. He told his disciples, “Lay up treasures in heaven where neither rust nor moth consume.” “A cup of cold water given in my name will not go without its reward.” “When you pray, go into your room and pray in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” “And when you fast, wash your face and anoint your hair, and your Father who sees will reward you.” “When you give alms do it in secret and your Father will reward you.”

Jesus said that at the Last Judgment the sheep on the right will hear him say, “Come ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Reward for faithful service is also the lesson of the parable of the talents.

Simon Peter didn’t think that it was wrong to work for a reward. The day the rich young man went away sad because he had many possessions, Peter stepped forward and said,
“Lord, we have left everything to follow you what are we going to receive?” He left a leaking boat and some torn nets and he wants to know what he will receive in return. Jesus promised him, and all who do this, that they will receive a hundred-fold in this life and life eternal in the next.

Some theologians say that it is psychologically impossible to make an act of love of God that is completely devoid of self-interest. If you say you love God you want to be with God. And if you don’t get to heaven you will not be with God. So the very act of love of God contains within itself the desire for heaven. If you want God you want heaven.

I don’t think of heaven because I know I don’t deserve it. Neither do I. Jesus won it for us.

Perhaps we do not think often of heaven because we have some strange ideas of what heaven is like. Who can get excited about riding around on a damp cloud all day playing a harp, or maybe today it is a guitar? And who wants to sleep all the time? “Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.” And how can we rest under all those bright lights? “Let perpetual light shine upon them.” “Green Pastures” and an “Everlasting Fish Fry” are not very attractive either.

Whenever there is talk about heaven people want to know if there will be sex in heaven. And if you say no, they lose interest. The answer to that question is, if that is what you want in heaven that is what you will have, because in heaven all of our desires will be perfectly satiated. But you won’t want that in heaven. You don’t want a creature when you have the Creator. Dope addicts tell us about the pleasure when they have a “good trip.” What causes this pleasure? A marijuana weed, a poppy seed, a cocoa leaf, some of the most insignificant creatures of God. If these insignificant weeds and seeds and leaves can give such pleasure, what do you think the Creator can give? Don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed. Just get there.

Well, if heaven is not like any of these things, what is it like? Scripture tells us that we cannot even imagine what it will be like. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love him.” But we can get some idea from what we have here in this world which will participate also in the victory of Christ.

We have some very beautiful places in this world. Think of the place you think most beautiful. Take away from it all physical evil, all sickness, suffering, old age and death. It wouldn’t be such a bad place. Now take away from it all the moral evil, all sin, temptation, envy, jealousy and hatred. Now add to this all the positive joys of all the faculties of body mind and spirit. Multiply that by infinity and stretch it out through all of eternity and you will have some small idea of heaven. Add to this the reunion with our loved ones, our family and friends; the understanding of all the mysteries that baffled us during life; the mysteries of science and theology; just when and how the world was created and how it evolved to its consummation; and who assassinated John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

These are just some of what are called the secondary joys of heaven. You could have all of these and still not have heaven. What makes heaven is God, the knowledge, love and union with God by whom we were created, for whom we were created and without whom we could never be truly happy. Just as in this life the consummation of love is in union so too in heaven the consummation of love is in union not with a creature but with the Creator. You can let your imagination run wild and you will never come close to the reality. And the crowning glory of heaven is eternity. This perfect happiness will go on forever. Yes, Jesus always saves the best wine until last, if not in this life surely in the next.

This is the end of the journey of faith, the New Jerusalem. This is the Good News of the Gospel, “I am come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” This is the last for which the first was made. What a shame that we hardly, if ever, think of it!


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