Friday, October 7, 2011

How does heaven look like?

Twenty Eighth Ordinary Sunday Year A

How does heaven look like? Has anyone here returned from heaven? Perhaps, you can share with us.

We have been watching too much television. Many people imagine that heaven is up there. They imagine a place of clouds, everyone is dressed in white, and people have sprouted wings. Well, heaven isn’t a place. It’s neither up there nor down there. Heaven is a state of being in the presence of God. Our communion with God and with others is so perfected, that there is no longer any separation or alienation. Heaven will always be a mystery because God himself is mystery.

Nevertheless, we can still have some idea about heaven, especially from today’s readings. The Prophet Isaiah in the first reading gives us the following images: Heaven will be like a banquet of rich food and fine wines, there will no more be mourning as death will be destroyed, every tear will be wiped away as there is no longer any pain or suffering. The most powerful image given by him is that we will see God face to face and no longer know him in a vague way.

The gospel repeats the image of the banquet through the parable of the wedding feast. What is interesting is that all are welcomed to the wedding feast. The servants went out to the crossroads of the town and “collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike.” I use to imagine that the gates of heaven are always opened. In fact, there is no gate and there are no fences. Anyone can choose to walk in at any time. However, people have the freedom to choose not to enter. This is the meaning of the words of Jesus – “For many are called, but few are chosen.” It should be read in a different way, “God has called all, but we can choose not to respond.”

Why do some people choose not to attend the wedding feast? Why do some people choose not to enter heaven? There may be a variety of reasons. There are those who feel that they are not worthy and are too sinful to stand in the presence of God. They feel naked and ashamed. Perhaps, this is the symbol of the man in today’s gospel who was found to be without a wedding garment. It is not God who had condemned him. It is the man who had condemned himself. There are many people who constantly feel guilty and sinful even after they had confessed their sins.

There are also others who are full of resentment, hatred and unforgiveness. Heaven refers to a relationship of harmony and love between all persons with God. But resentment and unforgiveness prevents us from entering into such a relationship. Just imagine that you have been invited to a party with some of your enemies present. Would you be able to sit down and have a meal together with your enemy? You wouldn’t have an appetite. The whole experience would be hell for you. And so this is hell, when we are not reconciled with our neighbours and with God. It is hell when we can’t walk hand in hand with our enemies. It is hell when we have to live with people that we hate for eternity. So, hell isn’t a place of fire in which God chooses to condemn us to. We choose hell by refusing to love and forgive.

We must be careful that we do not confuse our earthly existence with heaven. Many people think that they can make earth a heavenly place. They often think that if all their needs are met, if they have enough money, if they have lots of friends, if all their problems are solved, that would be heaven. My brothers and sisters, this is not heaven. When we try to build heaven on earth, we will be disappointed. No relationship will ever be an answer to our loneliness. No solution will ever be able to eradicate all problems. No amount money can buy happiness. As St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, only God “will fulfill all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.”

Let us look to God with trust. Let us turn to him in our joy and our sorrow. Let us search for him in our hunger and our plenty. Let us give glory to God who has prepared a place for each of us in heaven.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Terms of Use: As additional measure for security, please sign in before you leave your comments.

Please note that foul language will not be tolerated. Comments that include profanity, personal attacks, and antisocial behaviour such as "spamming" and "trolling" will be removed. Violators run the risk of being blocked permanently. You are fully responsible for the content you post. Please be responsible and stay on topic.