WHAT IS HEAVEN LIKE?

Do you have to use the restroom, when you die and go to Heaven? Do you have claustrophobia in Heaven? Will you be able to go to the Emergency Room? How can you travel from place to place? Who fixes your food?  These and thousands of other questions about Heaven we neatly tuck away in some far corner of our mind and never ask about how this can be.  What is Heaven, anyway? Who would want to go there?

Heaven is the only place where we don’t know what is in store for us but we want to go there and sell all our possessions to obtain it.  As a human being, we live our whole life in the physical universe (matter, time, energy) but we access it through our five senses as interpreted by our brain (mental universe). As the philosophical dictum says: what is received, is received according to the disposition of the recipient. In English, that means everyone looks at the world through a lifetime or their unique experiences and learned values. To enter the spiritual universe, it takes an act of the will, one that is a gift from God to us.  What is in the spiritual universe on earth is what is in Heaven.  Have you found it yet?

The problem comes in when you miss the train because you hold a set of values that don’t lead to Heaven or when you put a false center in your life.

As one who aspires to be a Lay Cistercian, I have made a commitment to follow the Rule of Benedict and use the Cistercian practices and charisms to ensure I am close to the heart of Christ. Through silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community, I want to discover Heaven on earth and transform the physical and mental universes through the spiritual one. To do that, I have to transform myself into the Life of Christ. To do that, I must love God with all my heart, mind and strength, and my neighbor. To do that, I must daily have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil.2:5) I am far from that perfection.

Here are some of my thoughts about Heaven as a result of my Lectio Divina.

  • I know that Christ went to prepare a place for us in Heaven (Ascension) and to make all things new with the Father. (John 17)
  • I know that Christ would not want us to be in a Heaven in which there is no love, the pure love of the Father for the Son.
  • I know that, even though on earth I can only communicate via my senses, that God makes up in me that which I lack to love with all my heart.
  • I know that Heaven is not like earth yet the kingdom of Heaven is within me right now if I can only access it.
  • I know that the Kingdom of Heaven is what I bring with me in terms of transforming nature and my mind to recognize that everything is One in Christ.
  • I know that, whatever time I have left, I want to give glory and praise to the Father and the Son, now and forever, the God who is, who was, and who will be at the end of the Ages.
  • Like the Little Prince, I recognize that “what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
  • I realize that I can solve the mysteries of the Universe from dark holes to dark energy, but if I can not live the Mystery of Faith, I gain nothing.
  • I realize that what the world sees is not what is important to get to Heaven.
  • I realize that I am not the center of the universe.  This thinking is idolatry, the most prolific and committed sin in all ages, the continuation of the sin of Adam and Eve, and one that I must guard against all my life. It is not without reason that the Ten Commandments has Idolatry placed first among all the sins of the spirit and that sins of the flesh are wrong but quite human.
  • You are not me; I am not you; God is not you; and most certainly, you are not God.” –mfc
  • I know that the big struggle is Satan convincing me that what I am doing is worthless and a waste of time, that the historical Jesus never wanted to be God but it was made up by his followers, that the Resurrection never happened, that Church is corrupt because people in it commit sins, sometimes horrible ones, that, when you die, you die and there is no Heaven, that transformation from self to God is a waste of time because there is no God, that what I do now as a Lay Cistercian is a bunch of fantasy, that I live in La-La Land and not reality, that I am worthless and a failure as a person, that placing my heart next to the heart of Jesus is sheer fantasy–nothing really happens, that the Holy Spirit is a figment of my imagination.
  • I realize that all of this comes about through Faith informed by Reason.
  • I realize that the purpose of Scriptures is for us to read how to get to Heaven and not how the Heavens go. (John 20:30-31)
  • I know that there are four dimensions to Church: Truth, Knowledge, Service, and Prayer. To become encumbered in just one dimension is to lack the fullness of Faith and miss an important aspect of how to love Jesus.
  • I realize that most people leave the Church because they want something more and don’t know how or where to find it. I know that G.K. Chesterton said, “People leave the Church not because it is found tried and wanting, but because it has never been tried at all.”
  • I know that you must dig to grow deeper into the Mystery of Faith.  Digging is hard work and not for the faint-hearted. One you make a Baptismal commitment, you will struggle against original sin and the Evil One your entire life. Those who persevere to the end will be saved. The Church is there to help with support, focus, and especially a spade to dig deeper, but it will not dig for you. Grow up!
  • Reading I Corinthians 13, I know that… 

    The Gift of Love

    13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (NRSVCE)

    So, what is Heaven like? If, through contemplation, your heart is ever close to the heart of Christ, you will know the answer in its fullest sense. God is love.

    Praised be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages.  Amen and Amen. –Cistercian Doxology

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