September 1, 2006


Heaven is our true home

The challenges and preoccupations of daily living often cause us to forget that this earthly life is a means not an end.

As a pilgrim people, we don’t really belong here. We are sojourners, not settlers, who are on the road to a better place, our heavenly home.

The Church teaches that heaven is the end of the road for us—“the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1024-1029). To live in heaven is to be with Christ, to be one with him and with the Blessed Trinity and all the saints in a holy communion of life and love that will last forever.

St. Augustine once described the hope of heaven this way: “God himself will be the goal of our desires; we shall contemplate him without end; love him without surfeit; praise him without weariness. This gift, this state, this act, like eternal life itself, will assuredly be common to all.”

This amazing mystery of communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. At the same time, it’s important for us to look toward heaven and to imagine what it will be like to be happy and fulfilled in Christ. We cannot know for sure what the kingdom of God is like, but we can imagine it.

The Scriptures and Christian tradition give us many images: “life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise, the Beatific Vision.” Perhaps the most helpful image of heaven is not of a place, but of a relationship.

Heaven is being in love—truly, fully, completely, unselfishly. Heaven is being connected to (in communion with) God and with all of God’s creation. It is perfect unity and completeness. It is fulfillment, happiness and unending joy.

As Pope Benedict XVI has said, “Heaven is a stranger to isolation. It is the open society of the communion of saints.”

To live in heaven is to be with Christ. By uniting with him in a perfect way, we discover our true selves and experience the everlasting joy of the divine community of love. Here we will find true love, true freedom and true peace.

It’s a mistake to think of heaven as a remote and distant place that bears little relationship to life as we know it now. The message of Jesus is that God’s kingdom is “at hand” and that it is accessible to us through him. What we do today, in the concrete here and now, either leads us closer to our heavenly home or it creates distance between where we are now and where we long to be at our journey’s end.

Yes, we have to live and work in “the real world” of our everyday lives. We have to experience the loneliness and frustration of life as we know it now. And we have to endure the imperfections and struggles of ordinary living.

But our faith assures us that we are not stuck in the here and now. We can move closer to God’s kingdom each day through prayer, through participation in the sacramental and spiritual life of the Church, through loving service to those in need, and through a genuine and unselfish openness to God’s will for us.

Let’s not forget who we are and where we’re going. By keeping our eyes on the goal, and by never losing sight of the one who has opened the gates of heaven for us through the gift of his redeeming love, we can begin to experience even now the satisfaction and the joy of everlasting life.

— Daniel Conway


Local site Links: