This is the eighth in a series of articles on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.
After some sobering reflection on death and judgment over the past several days, it’s finally time to talk about Heaven. Now that is a topic everyone wants to hear about! Yet there is a strange disconnect today. As it becomes easier and easier to satisfy our desire for instant gratification, we find it harder and harder to take the time to ponder a future paradise.
Almost no one talks about Heaven today—except perhaps at funerals—and then it is often to inappropriately presume the instant promotion of the deceased through Heaven’s gate.
The way most of our prayers sound today, it seems that we would be content to have God make this world a better place. People will ask God to improve their health and solve their financial problems, but rarely will they express any desire to go to Heaven and be with Him. It is almost as if we were saying to God, “If you’ll make this world a little more comfortable I’ll just stay here forever!”
Many older prayers speak of longing for Heaven. The “Hail, Holy Queen” laments that we live in exile, in a valley of tears, and are poor, banished children of Eve, who long to see the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb, Jesus. Many old hymns refer to being free at last, to flying away to Heaven some bright morning when this life is over, to looking forward to that day. Yes, soon and very soon we are going to see the King! Older churches were designed to remind Catholics of Heaven; their structures were often centered around the vision of Heaven.
Do you long for Heaven or are you just trying to make it through the day? When was the last time you heard a sermon about Heaven? Does the thought of it excite you? It is after all our reward, which eye has not seen and ear has not heard!
A big factor for the lack of longing for Heaven is that our lives are so comfortable these days. It is a kind of comfort that both distracts us from spiritual things and focuses us on worldly things. Our comforts also make the cross seem strange, even immoral. If Heaven is obtained through the cross, many say “It’s too much trouble.” They would rather focus on getting that new channel added to their cable television service or planning a cruise.
Add to this that we live in a world that is utterly upside down, a world in which most are not rich in what matters to God, a world that obsesses over passing and trivial things and pays little mind to eternal and heavenly things. Learning to love Heaven can mean some pretty radical things. It often means being willing to be 180 degrees out of phase with the world’s priorities and preoccupations.
St. Cyprian pondered this problem, which seems to have been evident to some degree in the wealthy city of Carthage:
[Regarding death] we struggle and resist like self-willed slaves and are brought into the Lord’s presence with sorrow and lamentation, not freely consenting to our departure, but constrained by necessity.
Why then do we pray for the kingdom of heaven to come if this earthly bondage pleases us? … If we should rather serve the devil here than reign with Christ?
The world hates Christians, so why give your love to it instead of following Christ, who loves you and has redeemed you? So banish the fear of death and think of the eternal life that follows. That will show people that we really live our faith.
Who of us, if he had long been a sojourner in a foreign land would not desire to return to his native country? Who of us, when he had begun to sail there would not wish for a prosperous wind to carry him to his desired home with speed, that he might sooner embrace his friends and relatives? We must account paradise our country (De Mortalitate, 26).
Heaven is something we must learn to love. In this it is like many of the finer things in life. Its appeal may not be immediately obvious, but having been trained in its ways, we learn to love it very deeply.
If we think that it is only natural to love Heaven, we must become more sober. The fact is, we have obtuse spirits. We live in a fallen world, governed by a fallen angel, and we have fallen natures. We tend to love that which is destructive and harmful, and even knowing that, we are still attracted to it. We tend to esteem that which is foolish and passing, while glamorizing evil. We tend to call “good” or “no big deal” what God calls sinful.
G.K. Chesterton observed,
The point of the story of Satan is not that he revolted against being in hell, but that he revolted against being in heaven. The point about Adam is not that he was discontented with the conditions of this earth, but that he was discontented with the conditions of paradise (New York American, 12-15-1932).
If Satan revolted against Heaven even while still in Heaven, and Adam preferred something to paradise while still in paradise, how much more should we be sober about the fact that it is very easy for us, who have not yet seen paradise or Heaven, to despise or minimize the value of the glory of God’s Kingdom.
Help us, Lord, to desire Heaven, to learn its ways, to learn of you, and to love you above all things.
11 Replies to “Do You Desire Heaven? Really?”
Honestly, I think no one thinks about heaven because we have no idea what it will be like. Numerous saints have visions of hell, they rarely have a vision of heaven. All we really have is the Book of Revelation, which makes heaven sound like … an eternal Mass. I am not super materialistic, and I love our Lord and Mass too. But Mass for all eternity, does not sound very attractive. I wish there was more to the doctrine then “union with God” and “new heaven and new earth.” What does this really mean?
“Mass for all eternity, does not sound very attractive.” Maria, there was a time that comment would get you in deep trouble. 🙂 In fact, many would agree. What you’re reading is in fact eternal worship of God by his creatures. Can’t be Mass because that’s an ‘unbloody sacrifice for sin’, right? No more need for that, up there.
‘New heaven and earth’. Peter says the world of Noah’s day was destroyed, yet here we are, standing on it. He also specifies that the Flood destroyed “ungodly _men_”, not the planet, against which he had no complaint.
“new heavens and new earth” is from 2Pet 3:13. The full verse cites God’s promise, and says righteousness is to dwell there. How much un-righteousness was there in Eden? But, after 6000 years of sin, can God possibly make or remake things right? What does Isa 55:10,11 say?
Satan revolted against Heaven while still in Heaven, Adam revolted against paradise while still in paradise, but we who have seen neither must be sober so as not to minimize their value? Please explain your logic.
How could Satan revolt in being in Heaven. Before the Fall, he practically knew Heaven, being so close to God?
I can understand Man’s plight, not the first Adam however. Man is born into the Fallen world and can favor it’s enticements through his fallen nature. Satan and Adam knew Paradise! It must be something that has to do with being a creature . . . rather than being a Creator.
Envy? In Paradise?
Bill, envy is the only possible motive for Satan. A summary of the Bible’s teachings is that he was given angelic oversight of our first parents, and became jealous of their perfect obedience. He approached the newer one and tempted her in to disobedience. Using the free will given him (“IF you disobey …) Adam in turn obeyed her instead of his creator. He transferred his obedience to Satan.
In this, he committed two sins. First, he made the tacit admission that Yahweh was not fit to rule him, srcond that God had lied to him. (‘You will die’; Satan, ‘You will not die.’)
Yes, we may favor the world’s enticements. Or, we may not. We have that choice. Given God’s righteous instructions in the Book, we can choose obedience.
Very nice article. As I get older I find myself more and more monitoring my thoughts and trying to keep an account of my thoughts towards fleeting things and desires versus thoughts towards God and eternal things. I forget who said, “A thought reaps a deed which reaps a habit which reaps a character which reaps a destiny”. Or something like that.
Don’t forget that the earth, too, is eternal.
Gen 1:28; 2:16,17 before the Fall.
Isa 45:18; 55:10,11; Ps 37:29 after.
A wonderful reminder of where I need to place my priorities. Although I consider myself a pilgrim traveller, too often I am not focused on my final destination and get caught up, too caught up in matters of life that have no bearing on getting to the gate. Will be saving this article as a potent reminder of where my focus needs to be.
Thank you for this series on humankind’s supernatural vocation, but through the cross. Aristotle thought that the human soul has three main layers: the vegetative soul, common to plants, fungi, and invertebrate animals; the animated soul, common to vertebrates; and the rational soul, common only to human beings. This tripartition is also evident in our anatomy as: the system of inner organs; the sceleton-nervous-muscle-system, and the central nervous system. Hence, the tripartion of natural history in vegetative, animated, and rational souls, and a similar tripartion of human anatomy, reflects the biological principle that ontogenesis reflects phylogenesis. Whence, Aristotle thought that natural history strives towards immortality, in well agreement with the account in Genesis. If our first parents were created from dust by the infusion of the image of the Son of God through evolution worked by the Holy Ghost, the socalled “missing link” was the advanced great ape species Australopithecus. From this our first parents not only received their biological lifes, but also necessary morals. Belief in God, however, was their own leap. They were created for peace and all good and immortality, capable of reason, morals, and faith. The old testament, then, is the story of a kind of new creation, to redeem original sin. The holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are our first parents, as Christians. Joseph has only the place that the Australopithecus advanced great ape had to Adam, to give Jesus morals, on behalf of God. Mary is the new Hava (or Heva, or Eva, or Eve). Jesus is the new Adam. Perhaps, if our first parents had not sinned, much like in the actual Church, the fruit from the tree of life would still be distributed to the whole world, but instead of dying, people aged over a hundred years would go to the garden of delights, to live with their ancestors, and the Christ would still be waited for at the end of time, like a kind of Christendom without Trinity.
From Swedish artist Carola, enjoy “I’ve heard of a city above clouds” (by Lydia Lithell with Russian folk melody). In Swedish, of course!
From your OP:
“we find it harder and harder to take the time to ponder a future paradise … The way most of our prayers sound today, it seems that we would be content to have God make this world a better place … [Heaven] is after all our reward, which eye has not seen and ear has not heard!”
> Per the word of God himself, there was a past paradise, a parklike ‘garden of earthly delights’, as it’s sometimes phrased. Physical, not spiritual. Genesis 1 & 2; note especially 1:28. In obituaries I often read ‘… went home to be with the Lord.’ But if the Bible is right, wasn’t and isn’t our home here on earth?
> One of our prayers is the Paternoster, which asks God to make a perfect, not “better” earth- “as it is in heaven”, right? Wouldn’t many humans gladly “settle” for that? Cf. Ps 37:29, a prophecy of Yahweh.
> Is it our place to specify to God how he should reward us?
How many desire the Kingdom of God now? Behold, it is among us. Purgatory and Hell also begin now. Permit a journey please; recall (Wis. 2) it says “by the envy of the devil, death entered the world…” Satan cannot forgive God and resents the fact that God would reconcile us through His only begotten Son. I mention this because so many seem to have forgotten, reconciliation and restoration as children of God. The Shepherds who are materialists foster resentment, and I will tell you the fruit it will bear; Godly sorrow produces repentance, but worldly sorrow is an open portal to Hell. The Crozier is for correction, but discipline is not the cruelty of imposing false shame and prying from the Lord’s Hand.
As for me, the Lord will do with me as He wills, and I would have it no other way.
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