Is heaven a big room where an old guy with a long white beard and a young guy with holes in his hands and feet sit on thrones, surrounded by adoring angels, with a white bird hovering over their heads? And what do we do there? Do we bow in adoration and pray all day, being generally blissful?
A friend of mine is very concerned about this and his scientific mind wants concrete answers.
Hmmm. I haven’t been there, so I don’t know. Sacrilegious as this may sound I cannot imagine the above scenario appealing to many people or motivating them to do good.
I once heard a priest, during a children’s Mass, liken heaven to a place where you could play on the beach all day and eat great big ice cream cones (it was a very hot day and the church was hot and stuffy). This I can wrap my mind around.
One day my grandson was telling me about his fear of death. I told him the above story, adding that he could have all the hot wheels he wanted (he was also trying to get me to take him toy shopping). This prompted him to want to die immediately. I sighed as I realized my mistake and explained that God had a special mission for him first and that he would not be allowed in heaven until he completed it. Lame explanation, I know, but I didn’t want him taking drastic measures. Why is there no guidebook for explaining theology to children?
This morning I read an article by Maryknoll Father Joseph Veneroso, where he quoted Mother Theresa as saying, “If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of darkness. I will continually be absent from heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” This thought gave me pause. The saint of darkness. And yet the saints are our intercessors, so why not? Mother Theresa does not wait to be asked. She just goes out and does what needs to be done. Beg food for the hungry. Nurse the sick. Physically and spiritually give comfort to the dying. Why would she do any different in eternal life?
St. Therese the Little Flower also said she would “spend my heaven doing good on earth.”
So obviously to me, these inspirational women had no intention of spending eternity in long white gowns floating on air and singing the Gloria. Although that is a pretty fantasy, heaven seems an extension of their mission on earth. To bring good. Bring love.
Jesus said “in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”(John 14:2 NAB). Though as I said, I don’t know, I take that to mean that heaven is not just one thing. That eternal life is richer and more satisfying than our present reality. And with that in mind, we should go on with our lives and try to bring love to one another.