Let Us Strive for Heaven


Letters from a Pastor to His People- May 10, 2020

Dear Parishioners,

This Sunday's Gospel is one we typically read at funerals.  It is meant to be a consoling passage, and one focused on the afterlife.  "Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places'"(John 14:1-2).

How does your heart react as you read those two lines?  Feel free to reread and pause for a few moments to reflect.  If you are consoled, then remain in that consolation and savor it.  If you are disturbed because you either doubt what Jesus is saying or have an unsettling thought about death or something else come up, then relate all that to Jesus.  If you are unmoved, perhaps consider why and likewise relate that to Jesus.

That was just a little spiritual excursus.  That, by the way, is how we pray and how we pray with the Scriptures.  It is important to be attentive to the movements (or lack thereof) of our hearts.  In the heart is where Jesus encounters us.  It is significant that Jesus acknowledges the heart in this passage: "Do not let your hearts be troubled."  Yes, there is certainly a place for formulaic prayer in the spiritual life, but we cannot neglect this very basic way of praying: relating the thoughts, feelings and desires of our heart to God.  Okay, back to the reflection...

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  Think about your home.  This shouldn't be a hard thing to do, as we've been stuck at home for almost two months now.  Our homes have become more multidimensional during this COVID time.  They are not just places of repose.  A home now is an office, a school, an exercise facility, and a church, among other things.  There are pros and cons to this.

You might have a very small house.  There are not literally "many dwelling places," as Jesus says.  So you might be eager to leave the house and get away.  Or, there might be other reasons the home is not a comfortable place for you; other reasons why the "shelter-in-place" mandate is a Hell for you.  That is understandable.  However, know that there is something intrinsically good about the home.  Or, at least, there should be something good about home.  Jesus tells us Heaven is like a home.  "My Father's house" he calls it. 

At home, as I've said before, we are meant to be ourselves.  There is no posturing.  We can be at ease and be simply who God created us to be.  Some spiritual writers call this "the true self."  We, at home, live out of our true self.  And we glorify God by being ourselves.  "To be a saint," Thomas Merton once said, "I need to be myself."

I'm not saying your home right now is necessarily like this, or even can be like this.  But what I am saying is that Heaven will be like this.  We will all be able to be ourselves and to live together without hindering the other.  Heaven is a home with many dwelling places. 

If you want to watch American Idol (that would be Hell for me), you can do so while your spouse watches a WWII documentary (Heaven for me).  You will be separate while together and, the best part, the Holy Trinity will with both of you simultaneously, watching and enjoying both your program and you yourself!  Let us strive for Heaven.


Yours in Christ,

Fr. James


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