Easter, 5th Sunday - homily
What is Heaven like? This is a question to which we all want to know the answer. None of us knows exactly what Heaven will be like because it hasn’t been revealed to us. It is beyond our comprehension how awesome Heaven is because it is an infinite reality, and our minds are finite. St. Paul wrote that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard…what God has prepared for those who love Him”. St. Catherine of Siena once said that “the indescribable sweetness of the perfect union (between God and man in Heaven) can not be told by tongue, which is but a finite thing”. So, we can’t really grasp the splendor of Heaven, and words can’t describe how awesome it is. But, we do have some images and details from Revelation and Tradition which help paint a picture for us of what Heaven is like.
In today’s second reading, St. John has a vision of Heaven. He sees a “holy city…a new Jerusalem”. There is no death, no tears, and no pain in Heaven. It is all new! Heaven won’t be completely different than our life on Earth; we do see some glimpses of Heaven in this life. But, it will all be new because it is eternal life. Here, and elsewhere in Scripture, Heaven is described as a wedding feast of the marriage between us and God. In Heaven, we will be married to God. Think about who God is…he is infinitely more beautiful and more attractive than any spouse on Earth. He is Beauty itself. We are called to be married to Beauty in Heaven.
Many people ask if we will see our family and friends in Heaven. Of course we will, if they are in the Kingdom. They will be with us and all the angels and saints, enjoying the full happiness and peace with the Trinity. When I think of Heaven, I think of a party where all of my closest family and friends are there, celebrating life; it is a time of great joy! Heaven will be like that, but it will be forever.
Heaven is home; it is our homeland. We all want to be home. Home is where our heart is; it is where we are loved, where we feel safe and secure. This life is not our home; Heaven is our homeland.
Now, I would ask the servers to come forward to help me with a demonstration. I ask two of our servers to take hold of each end of this long cord (that stretches across the width of the church). Please raise it up as high as you can. Now, I ask the third server to stand near me. I ask all of us to imagine that this line represents our lives. Here at one end to the left is when each of us was brought into the world…when we were conceived. The rest of the line represents our lives on earth and our lives for all eternity. The line goes off to the right, past the server for infinity…
Now, where on the line would we have the third server put his finger if we were measuring our life on earth in relation to eternity. He would put it right next to where we came into this world! We think our lives are so long here, maybe eighty or ninety years. That is a long time, but in relation to eternity, it is a mere fraction only. It is a very small amount! Now, how we spend this small amount of time determines how we will spend all of eternity…! Whoa. Thank you, servers, you may sit down.
So, how do we spend all of eternity in happiness and peace? Who does go to Heaven? In the second reading from last Sunday’s Mass, we heard that those who are faithful to Christ go to Heaven. Most of them knew his name while they lived on Earth, but some didn’t know his name. They lived good lives and tried to do God’s Will. This would be like the good men and women from the Old Testament – they are in Heaven. In today’s Gospel, those who love as Jesus loves – those who give their lives for the sake of others – they go to Heaven. Jesus addresses this question specifically a few times: those who are baptized will have eternal life, those who receive the Eucharist have eternal life, and those who care for the poor will enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 25).
In general terms, the Church speaks of living in friendship with Christ to get to Heaven. The term used is “Grace”. If we live in a state of Grace – in a state of friendship with Christ – and die in that state, we will ultimately go to Heaven. Not everyone goes to Heaven, as we know, because Jesus tells us there are people in Hell. But, if we live and die in a state of Grace – and we mainly receive Grace from the sacraments – then we will ultimately go to Heaven.
In the Eucharist, we have Heaven on Earth. The Eucharist is where Heaven and Earth meet. When Christ becomes present on the altar under the signs of bread and wine, the Kingdom of Heaven is present on Earth. Where there’s the Son, there’s the Father and the Spirit and all the angels and saints. When we come to Church, then, it’s like we’re in a chamber of Heaven. If we have loved ones who have died and are now in the Kingdom, they are with us at every Mass. It is the ‘communion of saints’ – the saints in Heaven are with the saints on Earth.
When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we are filled with happiness, peace, and joy. It is the greatest experience on Earth. It’s what Heaven will be like. But, in Heaven, it will be for all eternity.