I have been thinking a lot about Heaven lately. I’ve been discussing it with my kids and my husband and here are some of the things that I have thought of. I am not a theologian, and I’m still a pretty new Catholic, so I could be wrong about it or it could be very simplistic or whatever, so please don’t think that I’m saying I’m some kind of genius and that any of this is absolute. They are just some things that I’ve been kicking around and have to get out. Writing is how I get things out.
Anytime that I go to a funeral there is this very common theme of “so and so is in a better place” or “so and so is with Jesus now” and I think that it’s so sad that so many people don’t have people praying for them if they are in Purgatory because it is assumed that they are already in Heaven. That is a theological problem, but what I don’t understand is people who don’t go to Church, say they aren’t religious and then say things like that. Why would anyone want someone they love to be with Jesus after they die if they don’t believe in Him? Or in Heaven where He lives? There is never a good time to ask these questions at a funeral because it would be unkind to do so. And it’s a sensitive subject because everyone has lost someone that is close to them that wasn’t close to Christ or going to Church. Plus the discussion can get so crazy when people on the opposite extreme start saying things that make it sound like anyone who isn’t the perfect Catholic goes straight to hell. To me, the “everyone is in Heaven” and the “nobody but perfect Catholic saints are in Heaven” groups are the opposite sides of the same coin.
I often find myself wondering why it is that people turn to God when someone close to them passes away. I know God made us that way, that when we are suffering we turn to Him because He is where we will find rest. It is a part of who we are that no matter how much we deny that He exists, it is still there. How we turn to Him might look different, but it is still turning to God regardless of what we call it.
The thing is that we have lost sight of who God is, what Heaven is and that if Heaven exists and Jesus is God then Hell exists as well and there are people who chose to go there.
God is our Father, he is not a dictator. He gave us free will to choose to love Him. He doesn’t force Himself on anyone and He doesn’t make anyone do anything. We have to choose to follow Him or to not follow Him.
Everything that we do in this life is a choice between serving God or serving ourselves. We also have to choose whether we are going to worship God or worship ourselves or other things, like idols.
With that being said, if in this life we choose to serve and worship ourselves then why would God, who is pretty big on respecting our free will, force us to live in Heaven to serve and worship Him forever? If He wanted to force us to do that, He would just do it now, not wait until we have lived this life and then force Himself on us. This life is where we choose life or death.
We have made Heaven into something it isn’t also. It seems that it is a popular idea to say that Heaven is whatever we love the most. That is not accurate since really Heaven is us loving God first and foremost and letting go of everything else that we love more than Him. For example, if you love money, you won’t be rich in Heaven, you won’t have all the money you can dream of there, you will get that loving and worshipping God is better than money. Substitute money with anything that we love and it’s the same difference.
I don’t know if it was the Reformation, rebellion against fundamentalism or the 60’s Free Love campaign, but people have come to think that following Jesus is all about unicorns, lollipops, singing kumbaya and everyone who passes “is in a better place” regardless of beliefs at the time of their death. Following Jesus is about making Him the Lord of our lives and that entails picking up our cross and following Him. It means dying to ourselves and loving God above all things: families, children, money, cars, power, popularity, etc. etc.
The evil one does not care if we say that we are Christians with our lips as long as we don’t testify to following Christ with our lives. That means seeking the truth on all things such as what Christ commands of those who follow Him and what is right and what is wrong. We can’t just go along with the fads of the moment of what is right and what is wrong, we have to learn how to know the truth, how to discern things.
I hear a lot of people who think that Pope Francis is a softy and doesn’t preach enough about the hard issues, and I really don’t know if they are reading a different Pope than I am because all I hear from him is how we need to be authentic Christians who live Christian lives not just say that we are Christians with our lips. That is not a softy position.
Authentic Christian lives are what will get us to Heaven, where we will love and worship God with the angles and saints forever and ever amen. I pray that is where we all want to go.