Wanting Heaven

Whether it is in a silly commercial or a John Lennon song, I keep coming across this notion of forgetting Heaven, or of focusing on building Heaven on earth. The thought claims to free people to think about the here and now, enjoying what they have and trying to make the best of it rather than waiting for some unknown reward. Heaven itself proves to be difficult to understand or imagine; often when one tries, it seems like some childish wish or a boring vacation. Yet, considering what the Church and her saints have said about our true home, my heart breaks to see how many people are willing to abandon the thought of it. But what is this thing that we’ve stopped looking for?

“Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” (CCC 1024) This is our subjective end: to be fully satisfied and have our infinite desire finally at rest in possession of its good. It is a happiness that is not passing, not waning, a happiness that never grows stale, and a happiness than which no one could desire more. This is why the saints are also referred to as the blessed, because, as God tells St. Catherine of Sienna, heaven is “where they will have life without death, satiety without boredom, and hunger without pain. For their hunger will be anything but painful, because they will possess what they long for. And their satiety will be anything but boring, because I will be their flawless life-giving food” (St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, 192).

As Our Lord told St. Catherine, our objective end, namely the goodness in which the soul’s desire is finally satisfied, is the Sovereign Goodness: God Himself. Therefore, what we call Heaven can also be understood as the possession of God or the true vision of God, “for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). But because God’s goodness is infinite and beyond comprehension, St. Catherine describes this possession as both a hunger and a satiety: in seeing God our desire for Him grows unceasingly but never painfully, because we will already possess Him Whom we desire. Heaven is difficult to understand because it is essentially incomprehensible to us until it is ours; it is difficult to imagine because the “image” that we will finally see is the Face of God.

This is the happiness that the Church teaches and the happiness to which the Lord calls us. This is the happiness that we set aside when we settle for this world. And I wonder if it is because it seems like too much to hope for — or even, perhaps, too much to lose — that we can lie to ourselves about our own desires by pretending that heaven is something cheap enough to be built on earth.

Yet, even when we despair in this way, there is someone who will not cease to desire this happiness for us: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). So on this glorious Solemnity of All Saints, we remember not only the heroic lives and the glorious reward of those who have gone before us, but also the love of the Lord Who wished to share His own happiness with them.

May the Lord grant us that perseverance in hoping for the life and happiness that He promises us and that we could never deserve. May we always trust in His superabundant mercy which holds the blessed in Heaven as they forever contemplate His ineffable beauty. Amen.

-Br. Andrew Thomas Kang, O.P.

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