Dear People Whom God Loves,
When we think of heaven as a place, we usually think of it as a place of reward that God gives us because of our good behavior. Heaven in this understanding is something that we earn. It is not a gift. This is the unfortunate tendency that some of us fall victim to.
Thinking of heaven as a place can have another understanding. It is that heaven is a pure gift. That is, it is by the grace of God. Heaven can in no way be earned. It is by faith (understood mostly as trust) in the goodness of God that we are saved. We can then think that how we live doesn’t make any difference. Some of us fall with that unfortunate tendency.
The two examples are extreme but they do illustrate a point of view.
I find it more valuable to think of heaven as a state of being. I think of is as the state where we all become perfect lovers. God is love. We are made in the image of God. So our destiny is to be complete lovers.
I draw from each of the two examples above. The way we live does make a difference. At the same time salvation is God’s gift. How these are both true is mysterious. I believe that we must cling to both even though we don’t understand logically their interplay. I think of St. Thomas Aquinas’ statement “God moves us freely”.
Love is a choice. Where there is no freedom, there is no love. This way we choose has to be a part of the equation.
At the same time we must surrender to the Love we name God. And to allow Love to work in us in any way that Love chooses. This is where faith (trust) comes in. Love is calling us to surrender until the surrender is total. As the surrender grows we are drawn more closely to becoming complete lovers. Without that surrender, we good but flawed humans would never become total lovers. The mystery is that everything is God’s gift and at the same time our choices make a difference.
Who of us is a total lover at the time we die? Certainly not me, and I would say the same of most, if not all of us. As Catholics we believe that the process can continue after death. Purgatory tells us of this belief. Love (God) does not abandon us after we flawed humans die. I believe that Love will not rest until we get it right.
I am not a professional theologian. I am sure that they would find things to criticize and say differently. This, though, is helpful to me and I hope to some of you.
Smile, God Loves You,