When a person dies, we may try to comfort the family and friends who are mourning by telling them that the person has gone to a better place. This isn’t much of a comfort, however, for those whose loved one died suddenly, in childhood or the prime of life.
Reflecting on “a better place” as a commonly used term for Heaven, I began to wonder … is this even an accurate description? Should we be thinking about the souls of our beloved dead as vibrantly alive in an other place, a place that is removed and separate from here?
We are within Christ and Christ is within us. Therefore, here and now may not be as far removed from Heaven as we may think.Tweet
In the beginning of November, we honor those who have died by celebrating the feast of All Saints Day on the first and then commemorating All Souls Day on the second. This is the time of year when we ask for the intercessory prayers of the holy ones in Heaven, the saints — known and unknown — and we pray on behalf of the souls who are not yet in Heaven but in a state of purification known as purgatory. Through our rituals and prayers, we express our faith that all people who have died before us are not so very far removed from us that we cannot reach out to them spiritually, by the grace, mercy, and power of God. We remember that we are all family, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and the familial bond that we share with our fellow human beings knows no bounds of either time or space.
United in Christ, we are one Body — even here, even now.
We are within Christ and Christ is within us. Therefore, here and now may not be as far removed from Heaven as we may think.
Here, Earth, is profoundly sacred, it is where God created each and every human being to come alive, body and soul. Here is my father and mother, here is my flesh and blood, here is my body developing and growing, here is my birth and breath. Here is the loveliness of flowers and rain, forests and deserts, oceans and sunlight. Here is where God in the flesh walked and talked, here is where Christ lived and was killed. There is terrible beauty here … and astonishing goodness too. The cry that trembles and quakes from a baby’s mouth is quieted and soothed by murmuring kisses on her cheeks. A frantic hand is instinctively grasped and held as a stranger is pulled up from the cliff of danger to the ground of safe relief and gladness. An old man, too feeble to raise a spoon, is gently fed a warm and generous broth while he hears a song of sweet memories softly hummed in his ear.
God wants us to live here in love. God created the Earth for the beginning of our lives, so that this may be the sacred and amazingly beautiful place that shapes and forms us. God created us for all that is good, true, and beautiful, and all that is good, true, and beautiful is not finite and fleeting, is not subject to change, although the appearances, venues, and vessels that contain them here are. The beauty and goodness of this place is not temporary. Nothing that comes from the heart of God is created in order to be lost or to be discarded for something better.
When our shaping and forming is complete, then our bodies can no longer hold onto life — they no longer need to. But we do not let go of our goodness and beauty — this is ours, this is us, for eternity. The love that brought us into existence, the love that is our lives, is divine and eternal, beyond time and space. It does not end and then begin again in some distant realm. How can it? How can something so exquisitely wholesome, pure, vibrant, and eternally alive ever be broken? Our souls and the souls of our loved ones are eternal, and, because they are eternal, they are continuous, unbroken, perpetual.
When we love as God loves, then all that is good and beautiful is being perfectly fulfilled within us. Heaven is the perfect fulfillment of all that is truly good and beautiful — the perfect fulfillment of us. Heaven is not precisely a place that is other than this place, Heaven is a fulfillment of this place. “Going to Heaven” isn’t about experiencing a better life. Rather, it’s about experiencing the fulfillment of this life. Of our lives. It’s the natural fruition of who we have always meant to be, our eternal destinies that were seeded, shaped, and formed on Earth.
And if Heaven is the eternal fulfillment of all that is truly good and beautiful, then it’s easy to conclude what the eternal fulfillment of cruelty and hate is.
Lord, have mercy. May the holy ones of God pray for us so that we may truly love — now and forever.
© 2019 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.