Preparing on Earth for the Glory of Heaven

Guido Reni - St Joseph with the Infant Jesus - WGA19304
Guido Reni. St Joseph with the Infant Jesus (1620s) Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

In the gospels, Our Lord is abundantly clear that we will live for eternity, either in heaven or in hell, and that heaven is the reward that God has prepared for those who love Him.

Although we do know something about heaven from the words of Our Lord and the teaching of the Church, we can never fully comprehend the beauty and happiness of heaven here on earth. As St Paul teaches:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2.9)

We do know that those who are in heaven no longer have any sorrow; heaven is a place of perfect happiness.

On earth, we can never be sure of our salvation, we need to pray always for the gift of final perseverance in our faith. It is good to pray to St Joseph for a happy death at which we receive the sacraments and die in a state of grace. In heaven, the saints are now certain of their salvation which is assured for all eternity.

The blessed have all that they desire, and they see God face to face. Here, we need to be careful. To have all that we desire does not mean that God confirms our present disordered desires for created things or even our sins. On the contrary, the saints only desire the love of God and He is all-sufficient for their happiness.

Part of our purgatory will most likely be the purification of our clinging to earthly pleasure and satisfaction. It will also be a time in which we begin to know God as He really is. It is easy for us on earth to imagine that God is as we want Him to be – or even as we might be if we were God. The protest that “My God” would do this or that” is telling. We do not make God up in our own image, He created us in His image, and we must bow down before Him as He reveals Himself to us. We cannot bring Him down to our own level, we cannot fit Him into our limited human concepts of what we think religion should be or what we think faith should be. Along with the boy Samuel, our safest attitude is to say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” or with St Peter, when asked whether the disciples would join all the others who walked away because of Our Lord’s difficult teaching about the Eucharist being His own flesh and blood, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life.”

When we think of heaven, it is salutary for us in directing our lives here and now. It is a most urgent priority for us to give God the first place in our lives so that we may be more ready for heaven in which He will be our only good, and spend less time in purgatory repenting and being cleansed of our self-centred attempts to reduce God to our own thinking.