Saturday 1st November 2008
All Saints Day
Love that is very Heaven
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.
Whoever treasures this hope in him
himself, to be as pure as he is.
What was the happiest day of your life? You may need time to think it over. Maybe no one day stands out, but you have different memories of happy times. If your life has been very difficult, you may be inclined to say: ‘there was no happy day.’ Don’t be too quick to say this: human beings are made in such a way that they steal moments of joy in the most unfavourable circumstances.
You may have happy memories from your childhood: you may think of Christmas or special family celebrations. When I was a child we had a family outing every August. We hired a car and went to Puck Fair in Killorglin. My parents came from there and we met our relations, we ate and drank and went to Bird’s Amusements. I looked forward to this event with great excitement.
You may remember your youth: energy, enthusiasm and high ideals for the future, and happy days spent with your friends. You may remember times in your adult years when you felt deeply loved. You may remember your joy in making a life commitment. If you are a parent, you may think of the happiness your children and grandchildren have brought you. There may have been moments in your relationship with God when you were deeply moved, and times of achievement in work or in the use of a special talent that were immensely satisfying.
The poet, William Wordsworth, looked back at a particular time in his life and said:
‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.’
He describes that happy time as ‘very heaven.’ As you recall your happiest time, see if you can also say, ‘It was very heaven.’ Those precious memories give us a taste of what heaven is like.
What will Heaven be Like?
The seanachai (story teller), Eamon Kelly told a story about a parish mission in his young days. Great crowds came and the preachers made a huge impact. The day after the mission ended, several neighbours were at the forge; all the talk was about the mission. Some said that after all they had heard, they were given a very poor inkling as to what heaven was like. Would you have to work? Would there be a public house where you could sit down and talk to the neighbours? A fiddle player wondered if he would meet other musicians and exchange tunes. Some young people agreed that if there wasn’t any dancing, heaven would be nothing to write home about. A footballer said he hoped there would be an occasional match; maybe they would get up a team and travel out.
There was wisdom in this conversation. We are body and soul in this life and we will be body and soul in the next life too. That is what we celebrate on the feast of the Assumption: Our Lady was assumed body and soul into heaven, where she is fully human, fully herself. What happened for her at her Assumption, will happen, please God, for all of us on the last day. Whatever is good and human in this world will be in our lives in heaven - in a way that is different but no less real.
It will be different: no more suffering, sickness or pain. We can no longer die; there is no worry about the future. St. Paul said that no eye has seen and no ear has heard what glory God has prepared for those who love him. In the presence of God we will experience his goodness, and delight in his love. Can we have any idea what this will be like? Think of the goodness of people who have loved you and of how much their love means to you. That gives you a glimpse of what the love of God will mean to you when you experience it directly. It will mean as much to us as the greatest love we have known here, and it will mean much more.
St. Catherine of Siena said that along with the supreme joy of seeing God face to face, there will be joy in the company of all the other people in heaven, and special closeness and sharing with those we loved most dearly in this world. She said we will all be fully happy and contented, but that the more generous we are in loving God and our neighbour in this life, the greater will be our capacity to give and receive love in the next life.
God, our loving Father,
We thank you for the love you have lavished upon us
by letting us be called your children,
for that is what we are.
What we are to be in the future,
you have not let revealed to us,
but the love we have known in this world
gives us a glimpse of the wonderfully greater love we will know
when we see you face to face.
May we treasure this hope until you fulfil it in heaven.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Shrine of the Book