|"The Voyage of Life Childhood" by Thomas Cole (1801-1848)|
Then I grew up and realized that the world was nowhere near as awesome as I had imagined it to be. I have visited just about every place I wanted to visit when I was a kid. As wonderful as these places were, they had just as many (if not more) homeless, drug-addicted, and unhappy people as some of the shadier cities near my hometown. As much as I was taught by my school to love and trust our country's leaders, pretty much all of them had blood on their hands. Whether it was sending people to war, detaining them indefinitely, killing them with drones, abandoning them to insurgents, supporting the death penalty, or simply turning a blind eye to the slaughter of babies born alive during abortions...they all had/have blood on their hands. Naive as I was, I never imagined it would be this awful.
|"The Voyage of Life Youth" by Thomas Cole (1801-1848)|
I remember first going "online" when I was in sixth grade. I never imagined that such a powerful tool for communication would become a haven for sex traffickers, pedophiles, and anonymous trolls more concerned with their own selfish and disgusting ideologies than the well-being of others. I never imagined that it would be used to help children bully their classmates to the point where anti-bullying campaigns would be necessary to stop children and teens from committing suicide or driving others to suicide. I may not have always been as religious as I am now, but I certainly never expected the blasphemies and outright animosity against religions. You can probably guess what I am referring to right now...though I refuse to give this group any more attention or credit than they've already been getting.
|"The Voyage of Man" by Thomas Cole (1801-1848)|
Let's face it, no matter how hard we try, our works always find a way of descending into hateful chaos. The leaders we elect ultimately end up being just as flawed as the people who elected them...only with more power. The world never turns out to be as awesome as we wanted it to be. Don't get me wrong, there are still things, places, and people out there that are worth remembering and protecting. There are still forests out there that haven't been torn down to make new mansions. There are still wonderful people out there that still help make life as beautiful as it should be...if only for a few moments. Not all is lost, but there is no sense in believing that our world is a perfect place.
I was thinking about the awful state of the world today, when the thought of heaven popped up. It did not pop up in an "opium for the masses" kind of way. I did not think of it in a fit of escapism, but in terms of worthiness. I had been finishing up a book on Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, an Irish priest who had helped smuggle and hide Jews, POWs, etc. during the occupation of Rome by Nazis. This priest risked life and limb to save friend and enemy alike. He certainly lived out a pretty awful stretch of history, where the wrong person knocking on a door would have led to the deaths of countless people. I considered the work he and countless others had done and wondered about the mark in history that I have yet to make. What have I done to earn heaven? What have I done to ease the plight of those here on Earth? What have I done to make the world better? How can I make it better? Am I on the right track?
|"The Voyage of Life Old Age" by Thomas Cole (1801-1848)|
Needless to say, after thinking on it a bit, I came to the conclusion that I still need to do something in order to deserve heaven. Do I deserve heaven now? Nope. Can I one day deserve heaven? Perhaps. I have a lot of work to do first, but I am still hopeful. I don't want to dwell on heaven right now because there is far too much work here on earth and I cannot waste time dwelling on a reward that I do not yet deserve.
I have grown to love and appreciate Christ's presence in the Eucharist enough to actually feel a bit of heaven during the consecration. That's usually the only part of the week where I allow myself to consider heaven. It is one of very few instances where I actually feel as if I am in the presence of heaven. It is both an elating and extremely humbling experience for me and it helps me remember just how much work I have left to do before I am allowed to make it to heaven. Rather than act as an opiate, the thought of heaven serves as a reminder of just how much more I have to do. Maybe that's why I don't think of heaven very often...because I already seem to be weighed down by this feeling that I need to do more to ease the plight of my fellow man. I already feel weighed down by a schedule that makes it difficult for me to actively and regularly participate in charitable works and events. My service has, thus far, been sporadic...and insufficient (in my opinion at least).
And yet, even with all my mistakes and imperfections, God still allowed me to experience a bit of heaven. Perhaps He sees potential in me that I cannot see yet. Perhaps He knows that I need a reminder every so and so often about the work that I need to do in order to deserve the heaven He wishes me to be a part of. Or maybe this is what my dad was talking about the whole time. Heaven was never about just being in a place to worship and pray. It was about being with God and seeking to worship and praise him out of love. It was about fulfilling our longing for Him and loving Him fully with all the love a perfect soul can possess...a love unhindered by selfishness, lust, and a variety of other vices that are typically celebrated by the world. The heaven my dad talked about is a place that can not be corrupted because truth and perfect, selfless love dwell there. Considering how much I love truth and selfless love, heaven is not so much about escaping a place as it is about fulfillment. It is simply a place and state where love can be fulfilled and truth can be unhindered.
It is in these moments that I almost feel as if I am just a breath away from heaven and subconsciously already immersed in a heavenly and eternal adoration. I envision this heavenly adoration to be full of voices and musical instruments resonating and merging into one sound that is too perfect to be heard with the ear. I envision the sights of heaven to require far more photoreceptor cell types than our human eyes can handle. For readers out these who don't appreciate the science of vision yet, please do yourself a favor and read up on it. It is certainly fascinating, especially when you compare photoreceptor cells between humans and other creatures. Bees, for example, can see ultraviolet light. We cannot. Darn bees! *Shakes fists at sky*
It truly is fascinating, this idea that we only see a limited range of what the universe has to offer...and it definitely makes me wonder what prayer and adoration are like in heaven. I don't know exactly what it is that we can expect, but I can assure you that it is far from hopelessly boring!