Scripture is the bedrock of what we know about the mission of Christ. It is also written, says St. John in 20:30-31, to show us the way, the truth, and the life. Conclusion.”*30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s31But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.t” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/20
If you access this site and look at the footnotes, the one for John 20:30-31 states that the word “come to” has a missionary connotation, but early texts have that as “continue to” believe. The first set of words, “come to believe,” suggests to me that all of us read the Scriptures so that we move deeper in our Faith from what we don’t know to what we do know through the power of the Holy Word we read. The second set of words assumes that we believe and that Scripture helps us maintain our Faith. I think both have their unique take on Scripture and how Scriptures are transformative to help us move from our false self to our true self.
Here are some new ideas that have come to me through my Lectio Divina practice of contemplation. I use the phrase “from the edge of time” as a crude way to express that these are not my ideas. I am not that intelligent to explore how all reality fits together and begins to make sense (only begins).
13 No one has gone up to heaven except for the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.i 14 And just as Moses lifted up* the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,j 15* so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave* his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.k 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn* the world, but that the world might be saved through him.l 18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.m1 9* And this is the verdict,n that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.o 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.p” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/3
In this passage, some will believe in the words of Christ, some will not. For those who do, Christ became human to that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. What a profound statement. Reading the Scripture will not do anything for you unless you believe what you read. Remember John 20:30-31?
4. WE TAKE OUR HEAVEN WITH US– This is a rather bold statement because I can’t possibly imagine what God has in store for those who love him. Having accepted that as true, I am also busy preparing to take with me those things that I can use in Heaven, those items Christ has said were necessary to create the kingdom of heaven on earth. Matthew 25 speaks of the Parable of the Talents. Read this passage three times, once for the words, once for meaning, and once asking the Holy Spirit to share with you what it means to take your Heaven with you.
The Parable of the Talents.*14c “It will be as when a man who was going on a journey* called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.15 To one he gave five talents;* to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately 16, the one who received five talents went and traded with them and made another five. 17 Likewise, the one who received two made another two. 18* But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.19 After a long time, the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received five talents came forward, bringing the additional five.* He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ 21d His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ 22 [Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter;25so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ 26 His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!* So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? 28 Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. 29*e For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30* And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
If you are one of these servants, are you the one who does not see the Kingdom of Heaven as now and practices Heaven NOW with the help of the Holy Spirit? What does this parable tell you about what God wants us to do NOW as Baptized members of the living Church Universal? What does it profit you if you go your whole life and fail to seek God each day and store up treasures that do not rust or moths consume? Are you going to stand before God and tell Him that no one told you about living the kingdom of heaven within you each day and that you didn’t know about it? Even if you get to Heaven, hypothetically, what will it be like, you who have squandered your talents while on earth? You have a chance now to begin packing for the trip forever. The Church Universal exits at each age to help you pack and tell you what will pass customs and what will be rejected.
6. WHAT CAN YOU PACK IN YOUR BAG NOW TO TAKE WITH YOU TO HEAVEN? Only the rich get to Heaven. The trick is that these riches must be what God considers riches, not what you think. Heaven is God’s playground, and you must use His rules to pack your bag. Christ became one of us to show us what to pack in our bag and open the gates of Heaven. St. Benedict suggests what to pack in our bag in his Rule. In particular, I like the notion of Chapter 4 and the tools of good works. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
7. YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU TO HEAVEN: YOUR ABILITY TO LINK REALITY WITH THE GOLDEN THREAD OF CHRIST – A novel thought that came from my Lectio Divina meditations some years ago was that of a golden thread that links all reality together. The thread is Christ and is a gift given to all who are Baptized with the adoption of being sons and daughters of the Father. With this thread, I can sew together any good work, all experiences that I have had linked to the will of God, all my attempts to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus, all those sunrises and sunsets that remind me of how much Christ loves me, all the people whom I recognize to have their own golden threads. I am unable to sew through anything that is sinful or would cause me to hate others. The importance of this Golden Thread of Christ is that whatever I link together with the thread is my heaven in the next lifetime. This is what I can take with me to
8. EXTRA ECCLESIAM, NULLA SALUS. What might seem to be exclusive at first glance is actually a very ancient concept. Paul suggests in Ephesians 4 that there are seven unities.
1* I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3 striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4* one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.f
“All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .331
843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”332
844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:
Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged God’s truth for a lie and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.333
845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. the Church is “the world reconciled.” She is that bark which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.” According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves her from the flood.334
“Outside the Church, there is no salvation.”
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church, which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body, which is the Church. He explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, thereby affirming the Church’s necessity that men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse to enter it or remain in it.336
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”338http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P29.HTM
9. IF THREE PERSONS WENT TO HEAVEN AND WERE ADMITTED BY GOD, THEIR HEAVEN WOULD BE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER. If God is One, and we all exist in Heaven in an eternal NOW, how can there be different Heaven levels? Here I must admit to speculating and some hypothesizing about Heaven. It seems that if there are uniqueness and individuality in each human’s capacities and capabilities, that must also be true in Heaven. Mentally, it is obvious to me that not all of us have the ability to reason and make choices that resonate with what is real. We do all have the ability to reason and make choices, however. It is the choices that define who we are as humans. When some accept our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, and again, others don’t, there is a difference in our ability to be aware of what surrounds us. While on earth, we call that the perspective of the spirit (Galatians 5) and God’s energy allows us to see a reality that does not make sense, the Kingdom of Heaven. So, what happens when those two persons go to Heaven, and God judges them worthy? Heaven is God’s playground, and He allows who he wants to go there, but there is a difference, and it is not God but each individual. Those who have expanded their capacity to move from their false self to their true self (capacitas dei) have done so with God’s own energy while they are still alive. According to their awareness, those who have no appreciation or capacity to love others as Christ loved us (it is the as Christ loved us that is critical) will see Heaven and enjoy the Beatific Vision. There are not two different Heavens, but rather two different capabilities to relate to the truth. Those who do not know, love, or serve God will only enjoy Heaven as they can. They may not even know what they don’t know.
I wrote a parable about it that may help me explain my thoughts.
The Parable of the Banquet –
Once, there was a very wealthy man who wanted to share his wealth with those around him, those who had been so good to him from an early age. He came upon the idea of throwing an extensive banquet with the most sumptuous and delicious foods that could be made. He would spare no expense to find ten dishes that were the best food in all the world. Although he had many close friends, he decided to throw the banquet open to everyone who wanted to come. All they had to do was show up for the feast and eat what they wanted until they were filled. Fine wines were selected by the chief sommelier and dishes prepared by Iron Chefs themselves. He, himself, would stand at the door of the large banquet hall and welcome guests that came in. He advertised in all the local newspapers and on television about his gift.
The day of the banquet finally arrived. One hundred and forty-four persons showed up at his estate and entered the lavishly decorated hall. The ten tables were very long and contained more than enough room to seat everyone comfortably. The host seated himself at the head of the table and spoke of how much he wanted to be with everyone present because they took time to attend and that they should share that meal with those around them as he had shared his generosity with them. There was a puzzled look on the faces of most of the guests. They had no idea what dishes were being served or even if it would taste good.
Ten courses were each brought in and set before all the guests. But then a strange thing happened, one that the host had foreseen but allowed to happen anyway. Each person was free to eat of their fill without commenting or being thrown out for bad manners. Some refused to eat seven of the ten courses, saying they did not look good, even though they had not tasted them. Others did not eat the meal at all, stating that the food should have been shared with the poor and distributed to the needy and that the rich man was just trying to satisfy a superiority complex. Still, others said they did not believe in the way the host had achieved his fortune and would not eat anything on principle because he was not of their religious persuasion and did not attend their church. They ate to their satisfaction of those who did eat and had loads of food to take back home with them for their families. When it was all over, the host told those in attendance that what they had eaten would be their reward for the rest of their lives. This food would always replenish itself forever. For those who had humility and obedience to the host’s will, their reward was the fullness of all the ten gifts of enlightenment and truth. For those who refused to eat seven of the ten gifts, their reward was only a portion of the fullness of what the host had to offer them. For those who did not eat anything, that was their reward. They could only eat what they ate at that banquet for the rest of eternity. Everyone got want they wanted from the banquet, but not all were satisfied.
Those who approached the Christ Principle with humility and obedience to do his will gained not only nourishment but eternal life, enjoying the gifts they received while on earth.
10. HEAVEN MUST BE CONSISTENT WITH OUR HUMAN NATURE AND OUR SENSES. It makes sense to me that Jesus had to become human to experience the effects of Original Sin, even to dying on a cross, the sign of contradiction, so that we could spend eternity with what we learned about love while on earth. What doesn’t make sense is spending that time in Heaven (after we die) is some form of suspended animation like Hans Solo did when he was encased in carbonite. https://www.starwars.com/video/carbon-freeze I can’t believe that we spent all that time while we were living to learn to love and move from our false self to our true self, not to be able to do what we attempted while on earth. Christ ascended to the Father in both his humanity and divinity, so there must be a place to share our Master’s joy in heaven consistent with our human nature. Here is where I trust God (Faith) to prepare a place for me consistent with what I have experienced about his purpose while I live (Hope) so that I can love God with all my mind, all my heart, all my strength, and my neighbor as myself. How God does that is a mystery to me, and I am okay with that.
THE HERESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL
In my theologizing about heaven, the ideas I write are mostly so that I can take a step or two back and then look at ways there might be something I missed. One of the huge mistakes individuals who do Lectio Divina make is to think that they are the Church Universal’s authority just because the Holy Spirit gave you some insights. I have the opportunity to have my own interpretation of, for example, Philippians 2:5, but it is only my insight, and I have authority only over my choices, not anyone else’s. The heresy of the individual is the misguided belief that I have authority over the whole Church, not just my personal interpretation. I only have authority over the choices I make. If others like what I say, it helps them grow from self to God. The heresy of the individual can mean that I am the Church, not only individual but Church Universal. I am seduced by the Evil One to believe my own press about my importance and authority. I make these comments because I may be guilty of not be in sync with what the Church Universal thinks. If I find this out, the Church Universal, Scripture and Tradition, the Church’s heritage down through the ages is the default, not me. I look at whatever I write in terms of six filters if I think I am out of resonance with the Church.