BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (100) – Is heaven only a marketing gimmick?

Rev José Mario O Mandía 

Every man and woman yearns to be happy with an unlimited and unending joy. Jesus Christ came to tell us that that yearning can be fulfilled. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11). 

“Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024).

Pope Benedict XVI, in the Encyclical Spe Salvi, no 12, describes heaven as “something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, … like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time – the before and after – no longer exists … in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John’s Gospel: ‘I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’ (16:22).

Heaven is beyond all imagining; there is simply nothing like it here on earth. Saint Thomas Aquinas says it exceeds all human desire, goes beyond all human expectations (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II q. 114 a. 2). In heaven, we shall go from one discovery to another, one surprise to another. To be in heaven is to be with God, our Father, and since He is the source of all fatherhood (cf Ephesians 3:15 Nova vulgata), He is infinitely generous and imaginative in his gifts – infinitely much more than all the fathers and mothers put together. He has prepared delights which will keep us awed and entertained for all eternity (cf Ps 16:11) that there will be no time for boredom (cf Peter Kreeft, Everything You Wanted to Know About Heaven). 

Words fail when we try to speak about heaven. It is like a man born blind explaining to another blind man what the color “red” is, or a man born deaf trying to explain to another deaf man what a concerto is. 

“This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description” (CCC 1027). Saint Paul, who was given a glimpse of heaven, says that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9). 

For children, heaven will be infinite fun. And mom will no longer say, “It’s time to go home.”

We can only form an idea of what heaven is like indirectly, for example, by considering how much the saints were willing to sacrifice just to attain it. It seemed that no price was too high, no cost too great, to attain heaven. Saint Paul is an example. In the Letter to the Romans (8:18), he says “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 

When we think of heaven this way, no Mass will be too early, no prayer will be too long, no Rosary too boring, no sacrifice too difficult.

Sacred Scripture also uses a negative definition of heaven. Both the book of Isaiah and the book of Revelation speak in similar terms:

“He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).  

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’”  (Revelation 21:4-5). 

Tears are disappointments, frustrations, pains, worries, aches, sorrows …. In heaven, all that will be a thing of the distant past. (Image by Syaibatul Hamdi from Pixabay)

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