Thursday, May 19, 2016

Nothing Else Matters In the End

This weekly commentary on the Mass is winding down to the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, and so we now come to the following prayer:

To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, (Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia) and all your Saints: admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon, through Christ our Lord.

Last week I wrote about the previous part of the Eucharistic Prayer, where we pray for all the faithful departed, and I wrote about the reality of Purgatory and the duty of love to pray for the dead who languish there. This week I want to write about the reality of heaven, and the importance of heaven in our daily life here on earth.

This is something we never talk about these days, and that is a big problem. For the last 50 years, motivated by a certain sense of prioritizing of social justice and mission in the world, the Church at large has chosen to neglect to the point of vanishing the theme of eternal life and heaven, to the point where (I know this to be the case) more than a few good church-going Catholics no longer believe in it or consider it a necessary part of the faith.

This is absurd, of course. Our life on this earth is a hundred years, maximum, and for most people considerably less. The fact is, there is a life after death, and it is eternal. We are creatures made to survive death; the human soul is immaterial by nature, and hence immortal. These are facts, not nice if rather odd ideas.

We can spend the endless duration of life that follows our mortal death in the presence of God, and hence in a state of light, joy, peace, and beauty. Or we can spend the endless duration of life after death in the absence of God, and hence devoid of light, joy, peace, and beauty. The one state we call heaven, the other hell.

Once we accept the above paragraph as true, one conclusion inescapably emerges: the only thing that really matters in this life is to live our life in such a way that we go to heaven when we die. It is a matter, if you will, of sheer economics—one hundred years maximum of this mode of living vs. an eternity of utter bliss or utter misery.

The idea that this focus on heaven and living life in such a way as to get to heaven when we die would make us indifferent to the things of earth and to pursuing justice and charity on earth is such a stupid idea that it could only possibly have arisen in the 1960s, the decade when so many stupid ideas were conceived.

At any rate, it’s dumb and so let’s be done with it. Life is hard, but it’s harder when you’re stupid. The simple fact is, we live our life in such a way as to be suited for heaven if and only if we live our lives poured out in love of God and love of neighbor. The God we believe in is a God who passionately loves every human being He created. Our loving Him back necessarily means loving everyone and working for the good of all according to the wisdom and strength we are given by God. It is ludicrous—patently, obviously ludicrous—to say that a concern for heaven makes us indifferent to the sufferings and injustice of life on earth.

It is not the remembrance of God and what He desires of us that makes us selfish and malicious and unjust; it is forgetting Him that does that. And this is more and more the case these days; either we forget God in despair that there is such a person, and so the only good in life is to grab as much of this world as we can, or we forget God in presumption, blithely assuming that we all just automatically go to heaven when we die, so it doesn’t much matter what we do to each other on earth.

The Mass here really does establish us on the right path. ‘We your servants, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies’ – this is truth. And we ask Him for a share and a fellowship with the saints in heaven, for it is ultimately His gift to us that we can even hope to get there at all.

But let’s be clear about it—nothing else matters in the end. There is no earthly good, no earthly pleasure, no other happiness we can attain in this life that can outweigh the question of where we are going to spend eternity. And every decision we make this day and every day should ultimately be decided on the basis of one thing and one thing alone: is this going to move me closer to God and to the heaven where He dwells, or is it going to move me further from Him? In other words, am I choosing love and goodness here, or something else? Because in the end, that is what it is all about.

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