one day at a time
Heaven is always a bargain, no matter what it costs. I was reminded of this as I walked past Sr. Augusta’s sewing room this morning. As I usually do, I poked my head inside to see how she was doing since she is, after all, 96 years old and the oldest sister in our province. As she usually does, she called me over. She was seated, surrounded with her yarn from which she still makes caps and scarves to keep us warm, resting. “I’m 96 years old. What do you expect…. I no longer have the energy I had when I was 30 or 60. I still want to keep my promise and make you a white scarf before I go up.” More and more Sr. Augusta’s thoughts are about heaven, with a gentle trust that is charming. We don’t have to be 96 to have our gaze fixed on the life to come.
What is heaven like after all? We’ve never been there, so we don’t really know. We do know heaven is the dwelling place of God. The Bible, however, makes it clear that God doesn’t just dwell in heaven. Heaven is an image of life in God. Jesus speaks of a “reward in heaven” (Mt 5:12). Jesus’ sacrifice is shown to be definitive when the letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “passed through the heavens” (Heb 4:14). We are raised with Christ and made citizens of heaven. Fra Giovanni once said: "No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today." Okay. But can you describe heaven? Can we watch a YouTube video and catch a glimpse of it? Can we get our hands on a MP3 download of music from the celestial choir? All of this isn’t
really necessary. The book of Revelation says: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). Heaven actually starts now. It is now that we realize that we as creatures are divine dwelling places for the Creator!
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity would often repeat: “Heaven is in my soul!” When this life has passed away, we who have welcomed God into our lives and opened ourselves in trust to the gift of his love as best as we can will enjoy the fullness of communion with God which is the real goal of human life. In heaven, for all eternity, each blessed soul will see, possess, and adore God together with the angels and saints. So in the end, as a wise man once said, we grow to heaven, we don’t go there.
I asked the Sisters for ideas of how to find heaven on earth and here are 5 tips they gave me: Read about the saints and the blessed Mother. They help us keep our eyes fixed on the final goal. There we will be united, body and soul, with the risen Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12:1), all those saints and family members who have gone before us into the fullness of communion with God. Say this short prayer often during the day, to remind you that God is the source of everything you need and do on this earth and he gives you the promise of eternal life: “By myself I can do nothing but with God I can do all things; for the love of God I want to do all things. To God the glory, to me heaven.” (Blessed Alberione) In difficulties, take courage. Our Founder, Blessed Alberione, often said: “If on one side you find difficulties, on the other side there is Jesus, and above is Paradise which awaits you. Jesus always presents us with three things: difficulties – grace – Paradise. Courage!” Let the thought of heaven make you generous. St. Paul said that the one who sows sparingly will reap spar-ingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. God loves a cheerful giver. (cf. 2 Cor 9:6). Take time to acclimate yourself to heaven each day. You can do this through prayer and love. In prayer we are saying to God, “Let me know you and love you and I will find my eternal joy in you” (St. Anselm). By serving others we are imitating the way God loves us now and will love us for all eternity: a continuous selfless outpouring of gratuitous generosity. Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, fsp ________________________________
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