Is there really heaven; the perfect place of eternal happiness? What is life like in heaven from dawn to dusk? How large is the place and how many (many) mansions are really there as our Lord mentioned in the Gospel of John (14:2-3)? Do people there do sports and play games? What do people there eat? People say that those in heaven keep singing and praising God will they not get tired and bored? These and similar imaginative questions are in the minds of many, and of course, some imaginative answers crop up because nobody on earth can claim to have comprehensive knowledge about heaven.
It will be fitting today to ask ourselves what we think about heaven, the place every well-meaning Christian should be aspiring to go after the short time we have on this earth. As a child, I had the idea of heaven as a place you don’t have to run errands for anyone nor receive punishment by any teacher; a place you can eat anything you want just by mentioning it. Excuse my little mind; I was looking for a remedy from errands and punishments. For us today, we can rethink heaven by asking some pertinent questions like: “If I die now will I be qualified to be in heaven?” May be, we first have to establish that there are reasons to believe that heaven is real.
Our conviction about a place of eternal bliss after our sojourn here on earth comes from numerous biblical confirmations. During the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ says: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” (Matt. 5:3); he also says: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Furthermore, in the Gospel of John (14:2) our Lord says: “In my father’s house there are many mansions if it were not so I would have to you. I am going to prepare a place for you!”
In his letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 2:9) St. Paul said: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into any mind what God has prepared for those who love him!” He also says that we have a better place after the destruction of this our earthly dwelling-place. (2 Cor: 5:1). St. Paul did not stop at these, he goes further in his letter to the Philippians (3:20-21) to state:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself”.
We have another confirmation from the vision of St. John in the book of Revelation (7:9ff). Here, we have the whole scenario or if you like, the eternal picturesque of heaven. In his account, John looking up sees a huge number of people impossible to count standing before the throne of the lamb with palms in their hands. To confirm what he saw, John asked “who are these?” and he gets the answer that they are people who have been through great persecution and they have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb. It is worth noting that the robes washed in the blood became dazzlingly white not red; an indication that the people in question soaked themselves not just in real blood, but in purifying blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sainthood is a facility that is open for all of us. This facility continues to be open for you and me insofar as we are alive. For us to achieve sainthood, which is the end product of our pilgrimage on earth, we need to know:
1) Where we came from: (We came from God our Creator).
2) Who we are: (We are Children of God).
3) Where we are going to: (We are citizens of heaven).
“How can we get to our destination?” The question that each and every Christian should be asking himself or herself daily. On this, God did not leave us clueless. From the Beatitudes, we learn the values that will aid us to attain eternity. The beatitudes we heard today from the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12) are not merely “dos” and “don’ts.” They rather are expressive of core values that will make our journey back to God possible:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This means that blessed are people who depend on God always to get their way for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
This means that blessed are people who are sad for the loss of good values for they shall be comforted by God Himself.
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
This means that blessed are those who are truly humble in heart for they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
This means that blessed are those who are honestly and sincerely desirous of God and things of God for they shall be satisfied.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
This means that blessed are the people who show mercy to others by bearing with them and forgiving them, for they shall have the same treatment from God.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
This means blessed are the people who do not keep evil in their hearts for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
This means that blessed are people who keep or create peace, for they shall be called sons (and daughters) of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This means that blessed are people who are hurt in any way because of their good deeds and morals, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We have all it takes to make heaven and thus be among the saints. We have the word of God which is read and explained to us on a daily basis, we have the sacraments especially the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and reconciliation very much available to us. Just as heaven is real so is hell also real. We make heaven starting from the things we do here on earth, and the same applies to hell. “What will it then profit us if after the challenges of living and the attendant undulations we still suffer the loss of our souls in hell?” (Mark 8:36) There is no better time for us to prepare for heaven than now.
Today we are celebrating the joy of our brothers and sisters who ran the race and won the prize of glory. Today, we are also celebrating the glory of heaven; the place we need to be. We are challenged to follow the path that will lead us to heaven.
Happy All Saints Day and may God’s mercy lead you on! And may you be numbered among the saints in heaven after the little time we have to stay here on earth!