Catechesis, Spirituality, Theology

Day Two: Joy of Eternity

Recap of Yesterday’s Joy of Identity Talk

Must answer the questions: Who am I? Who am I becoming? What is my role, my mission, my vocation?

Must remember these four categories: One, I’m a creature and not the Creator, so I can accept or reject this gift of life. Two, I’m made in the Image of God, which means that we are capable of receiving God in our lives, and that God desires this union with us, we should be filled with overflowing joy so that others can have this same union with God. Three, because I am capable of receiving Him, I am also capable of rejecting Him, I am capable of choosing my own unhappiness. Four, our Jealous God sought us out, came to rescue us from the sin and death that marks our lives, by sending us the Savior, and restoring us to the heart of the Father.

Introduction to Our Joyful Eternity

No one normal ever really likes talking about Hell. It’s unpleasant, sad, negative and is hard to deal with. But what’s really odd is that no one is really talking about Heaven either! Imagine a whole bunch of people on a bus talking to each other about their journey, but no one mentions the destination. They go on and on about the trip, about how hard it is, funny things that happened along the way, why they are on the trip to begin with, without ever mentioning the point of getting on the bus in the first place, the destination. Yet, that is what happens when we don’t think about, speak about, and desire Heaven.

However, when we stop and think about Heaven, about the promises and rewards that Jesus Christ pledges to those who love him and have faith in him, then how could our hearts not be overwhelmed with joy? We do not deserve this Heaven. It is freely given by the God Who is Love.

Happiness and the Human Person

Everyone wants to be happy. No one wants to be miserable forever.

God implanted in the hearts of every human person the desire to be happy. This is the first impulse and ultimate desire of every human person.

We do all of the things that we do (make all of the sacrifices that we make, buy things, wear things, eat and drink things, inject things) for this one goal: we think it will make us happy. That is why we call happiness the Ultimate End. All our choices and actions are completed there. It ends with endless joy.

There are rival definitions of true happiness. Some say it is pleasure, others fame and respect, still others think it is health, or power, or riches. But none of these things really satisfy the human heart because they change or fade with time. Pleasure cannot last forever. Our hearts are made for eternity and these things are not eternal.

Jesus offers his definition of human happiness: the union of man with God in Christ Jesus. God made us for Himself. Remember Augustine’s words: "You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You". Thus, human happiness and God’s Heaven are the same thing.

What is Heaven, Our Final Destination?

Heaven is being in communion with God who is infinite, eternal, fiery love.

Heaven never fades, gets boring, annoying or old. It is forever young, new, exciting and joyful.

Heaven is friendship with God, intimacy with Him, it is the union of man with God in Christ Jesus. And it will never end. It is eternity, which is outside of time.

Heaven is perfect community because everyone loves with God’s love, not their feeble, broken love. We are perfectly united to each other in Christ Jesus. There is no more sin, hate, fear or selfishness. Our freedom is perfected.

Heaven was begun the moment grace touched your soul. CS Lewis says that when we look back from Heaven on our past life on earth, we will realize that earth was a part of Heaven all along. St Teresa said that the way to Heaven is Heaven because Christ said, “I am the way”.

Problems with Heaven

Every human person was created for Heaven, but that does not guarantee that we get it, nor that we have a right to it. It is a gift freely given by God, and one we can freely reject. We are not entitled to Heaven. We lost that birthright by Original Sin.

We should not think of it as some awkward pleasure banquet waiting for us in the sky because we are good little boys/girls. It is the point of life!

There is a silly caricature that says, “Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” As if those who take the destination seriously somehow miss out on the journey.

Others reject Heaven because it reduces this life to “just a test or trial”. The truth is the opposite! The things we do in this life have even more meaning, depth, and beauty because they have eternal significance. Heaven is chosen now in a million little choices. Hell, too. “What we do in this life echoes into eternity” (Gladiator).

Hell and the Sadness of Choosing Myself

So we are made for union with God, but have the ability to reject God. What happens when we reject God? What happens when we die and stand before God and tell him “No”? Hell. Hell is not a pleasant topic, but it is real and we need to understand that people really do go there. It is a always a tragedy. God did not make us for Hell. We were never supposed to go there.

Why does Hell exist if God is all-good and loving? Hell exists because love, for it to be real, must be free. You cannot force someone to love you. Not even the Creator can force love us to love Him. One is free to love you, or free not to love you.

Hell does not exist because we wanted it. Hell exists because we don’t want God. But if union with God is the whole point of life, happiness, and fulfillment, then not choosing God means we are choosing our own unfulfillment and unhappiness. Without eternal satisfaction, we are only left with one option, which is eternal frustration.

Why would anyone choose Hell over fulfillment in God? Adam and Eve did not eat the fruit saying, “God hear us, we hate you so much we eat the very thing you told us not to! In your face!” Nope. They did not hate God, they just put Him in second place. In first place? Themselves. God is a jealous lover. He does not settle for second best. Hell is made in the million small choices every day where we put God after ourselves. Life has eternal significance and our choices have a spiritual inertia, carrying us to Heaven or Hell.

CS Lewis once said that the gates of Hell are locked, but from the inside. For those in Hell hate Hell, but they hate Heaven even more. They hate it because they hate Him. God, in His mercy, created a place where they would not be forced to have Him. But in rejecting Him, they burn in their own frustration, their dissatisfaction, their unfulfillment forever. All or nothing. They chose nothing.

The Car Analogy.

What happens if you put water in your gas tank because a gallon of water is a lot cheaper than gas? It doesn’t go. What happens if your friend tries to stop you by reading the manual “UNLEADED FUEL ONLY”, and you inform him that no book will dictate how you live your life, even if it was written by the guy who designed the car and knows how it best runs? This is analogous to our spiritual lives. We do not want to have our freedoms limited by the will of our Creator, even if He knows that choosing against Him will only lead to our frustration.

Conclusion

Hell is real, but so is Heaven! Jesus, our conquering Savior, freed us from sin, death, and Hell’s dominion by the Cross and Resurrection. Jesus won for us Heaven, and gave it to us as a gift. Jesus died and rose to make us happy, to give us meaning and purpose in life and to unite that to Him forever. Heaven is begun now.

The way to Heaven is Heaven because Jesus is the Way. Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to unite us to one another and to God. That’s what Heaven is, only in Heaven there will be no more sickness, sadness, sorrow, shame or sin. Only love, truth, and beauty. Only perfect happiness and radiant joy.

The Kingdom of Heaven is our destination, our homeland, because Jesus Christ gave us a new identity in Him: sons and daughters of the Eternal Father.