There was a time when I administered the last sacrament to a dying old lady. About 10 minutes after she received the anointing, she passed away. The family had a very good disposition about her death, and one of the daughters approached me and said, “Father, she has gone to heaven. She is up there. “But one of the grandchildren butted in and remarked,” Father, she has gone to heaven. She is with us.
How different were the two remarks. When we speak of going to heaven we usually refer to a place way above us. I remember one of our church servers here. Everytime I tease him he good naturedly warns me: “Father be careful, liars go down.” What he actually means is that liars go to hell.
But whoever said that Heaven is up there? In the same breath, whoever said that hell is down below? It is not contained in the scriptures that heaven is a place up there.
Heaven, rather, is a situation. It is a status in life where there is complete love and where everybody enjoys each other’s company. Unfortunately, we have become used to the notion that heaven is located somewhere up there, such that when we refer to making improvements in our life, it is said that we are moving up.
I do not say, however, that heaven does not exist or that it is already here on earth. What I simply want to convey is that heaven is a promise, and a taste of that promise can be realized even here on earth.
When we improve our relationships, when we heal our broken hearts and choose to forgive rather than to hold grudges, when we help others rather than serve only ourselves, then heaven becomes a reality for us here on earth, but only as a foretaste of the Lord’s promise. The little girl showed brilliance when she correctly offered that comment. As Fulton Sheen said, “Heaven is where love is without pain, hell is where pain is without love, and purgatory is where love is with pain.” According to St. Teresa, “If you cannot find love, put love and you can find it” It belongs to the nature of goodness to be contagious, and be diffused and scattered among, and affect other people. If you complain that there is no love in your home, ask yourself “Have I put love in my home?” Do not put the blame on other people, it is you who do not put love in your home.
Let us stop thinking that heaven is still to come. Yes, it is still to come, but we can make heaven right here on earth. We can make our home, our offices, truly heavenly. As contained in the Books of the Apocalypse, John the Beloved says: “I foresee a new heaven and a new earth.”
But I want to call your attention to the fact that when John prophesied that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, he was not looking up but down. Therefore, this new heaven and earth where love is and God reigns, and the commandments of God are the only rules of life can be realized here on earth, albeit not fully and completely. But we can taste the promise and we can experience the beginnings of that heaven here on earth.
The problem is that we choose to postpone its realization. Some of us are already troubled in life and look forward to death. But we do not have to wait for death in order to experience heaven.
You can experience heaven right now if you start putting love in your present life here on earth. Heaven is not up there, not out there, not down there. Heaven is God’s promise to us, but we can hasten the fulfillment of that promise if we will just put love in our life.
HEAVEN ON EARTH
Only Jesus, Always Jesus