“Heaven is the perfect end of a life spent loving God, not the end reward for a life spent being perfect.” – John Henry Newman
I hope these words of Blessed John Henry Newman provide you comfort because they are true. I heard once that St. Francis of Assisi was asked while he was hoeing in his garden, “What would you do if you knew Jesus was coming back this very day?” And his response was, “I’d finish working in my garden.”
And Brother Lawrence, the 17th Century monk whose letters are preserved in “The Practice of the Presence of God,” stated that he would do in Heaven what he’d been doing here on earth: adoring, praising, and serving God. So there’s the key then. Our lives, when they’re spent loving God and our neighbor as ourselves, are an extension of Heaven!
An eternity in Heaven is the result when we know and love God now. It’s not about what I like to call “spiritual handstands.” We don’t have to perform amazing feats of ‘daring do’ to gain Heaven. Don’t think you have to go to Calcutta like St. Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity, although that would be awesome, if you are called by God to do that. Consider another Teresa, St. Therese of Lisieux, who lived out her days in a cloistered convent and yet is now a Doctor of the Church. Her life on earth was so short and yet she still touches the lives of so many. She was satisfied with the “little way” and was happy where God placed her, a Heaven on earth for one who seeks and does the will of God.
As the downhere song says, “Little is much, when God’s in it.” We just have to love and serve God. He takes care of the rest. C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God.” Don’t judge yourself too harshly, that is by the world’s definition of success. That will always leave you feeling underappreciated and falling short of the mark. We will fail from time to time; inevitably, because we are human. But just cooperating with God in love and trust provides the grace we need to fulfill our duties in our families and our daily lives.
We can bless and adore Him through our actions and works when we offer them all up to Him each morning. Offer Him everything! Your best and your worst; the good the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful, the grandest and the smallest gesture! He wants all of you, your best efforts and disappointing failures, too. Cling to the Lord, or better yet, let Him hold on to you. Feel the comfort and security of the Father’s love for His child. Offer God that “sacrifice of praise” and watch how everything gets easier! It’s easier to handle challenges; it’s easier to love the unloveable.
We should not have the misguided notion that God is demanding that we follow arbitrary rules to prove our love. (A concept for another time, but simply, God’s laws are given to us to keep us spiritually safe, just like parents’ rules are there to keep us physically safe. And also to make us authentically happy, not earthly, fleeting emotion. Think of the “blessed” from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.)
When we surrender our will and allow the Holy Spirit to pour God’s grace and love so abundantly upon us that we are engulfed in those, we want to spend our mortal lives loving and serving Him. And as that love and grace surrounds and fills us up, it spills over so we are loving and serving our neighbor as well. You know, the neighbor Jesus tells us we should love and serve as so vividly described in His parable of the Good Samaritan.
I heard a mom one time say that she felt like the invisible woman where her children were concerned. They seemed to take her for granted and to not hear her when she asked them to do things in their home, they seemed to not notice the many things she did each day to provide for their needs and comfort. She went on to compare motherhood to a cathedral builder. The stone cutters, sculptors, and other artisans and laborers of the great cathedrals of Europe would never see the finished product and no one would know their names. But it was enough for them that God knew; because everything they did was for His glory. Such power in simple faith. It wasn’t anything ‘grand’ individually, but the world gets to see what all of these anonymous, hardworking people did, who worked diligently out of their love for God for untold generations!
That’s a perfect example for us. When we do what God asks of us, expects of us, and do it diligently and out of love for Him, one glorious day, we can have that “sure and certain hope”* that we will transition from this mortal life to Heaven with the Lord.
We don’t have to try for a perfect, zero defect life. It’s a futile attempt. We just have to love God. So many good things flow from that. And it makes our time here a Heaven on Earth. Jesus tells us in the Word that the Kingdom of God is within you! That comes from loving God, accepting His grace, glorifying Him with all we do, and so treating others as we want to be treated. It’s that easy. Really. Jesus also tells us in Scripture that His yoke is easy and the burden, light…
*From Catholic Cemetery Service #2