Anyone spend time meditating on Revelation 21 lately? And why not?
Easter season. Things we believe in. So far we have considered the following:
We believe in one thing, namely ______. God.
Two fundamental mysteries of faith: __________ and _______________. Trinity, Incarnation.
The articles we believe, spelled-out in the __________. Creed (not the band).
We see, hear, smell, taste, touch the external, material elements of the sacraments; we believe they give us invisible ________. Grace.
Ok. The next topic regarding our faith, appropriate for the Easter season: The triune God brought about the Incarnation, accomplished everything summarized in the Creed, and gives us grace in the sacraments, all for one ultimate reason: So that we can get to ______________.
Is Revelation 21 the last chapter in the Holy Bible? Almost. It’s the next to last.
I, John, saw…A new heaven and a new earth…The holy city coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride for her husband…It gleamed with the splendor of God…With twelve gates inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and twelve courses of stone inscribed with the names of the apostles of the Lamb.
No temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. No need of sun or moon to shine, for the glory of God gives the light, and the city’s lamp is the Lamb.
Heaven means God giving us peace and making us happy. God, being God, transcends what our minds can, at this point, conceive. Therefore, heaven is a mystery of faith. Indeed, heaven is one of the articles of our Creed: “I believe in life everlasting.” What we believe, we do not know. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
That said, we do not agree with agnostics when it comes to heaven.
Agnostics deny that we have any certain knowledge about transcendent things. But, in fact, we do know some things for certain.
We know for certain that the human soul is immortal. We know for certain that God judges justly, and that heaven, hell, and purgatory exist.
Yes, these are mysteries. Yes, the full reality of any of them is altogether beyond us right now. But the fundamental facts are not in doubt. Judgment, heaven, hell, and purgatory are certain facts.
Allow me to try to explain this in another way. On the one hand: Yes, between God and man, there is a cloud of mystery which we cannot, on our own, penetrate. But on the other hand: Between God and man there is also a bond of friendship, a conversation, a communion.
God our Father made us to long for the things we long for—justice, truth, happiness, friends, light, beauty, love. He made us to long for these things because He will satisfy all this longing. He Himself is Truth, Justice, Beatitude, Light, Splendor, and Love. He will be eternal food for our souls and bodies—for our entire persons—uniting us as citizens of a glorious, perfect metropolis–a city where the baseball season has always just begun and the home team always wins.
My point is: We believe in heaven; we do not see it. But we do see it, as if in a mirror. We see it in every enduring thing that is wholesome and true. We see it in honest eyes. We see it, hear it, smell it, taste it when a moment comes with true beauty and peace—peace that seems like it can and should last forever.
It will. That’s what we believe. We know that there are good things, and we want them forever. We believe that we will have them; we will have them in spades—in ways beyond what we can even imagine now.
This real connection which we have with heaven—the connection of faith, faith which is not blind, but which makes our desires and our experience make sense—this connection we have with our final goal: It is not some kind of luxury; it is not some kind of optional hobby for people who have time on their hands.
No, our connection with heaven—a connection established by faith illuminating our experience—this connection is the absolute foundation of any kind of livable life.
We have to make choices; we have to commit ourselves to things; we have to recognize temptations for what they are and fight them off as best we can—in other words, we have to be moral individuals, self-possessed and deliberate, humble and prudent. But all of that, everything involved in struggling to be an upright person—it is all based on one thing. The fundamental reason why I would choose to do good and avoid evil: Because I want heaven.
I want to live in the Holy City, which I know for a fact exists. Is it worth giving up some short-term pleasure for the sake of getting there? Of course it is. No question.
I don’t know how great heaven will be. But I do know that it will be even better than the Nationals’ sweeping the Braves on Cherry-Blossom-Parade weekend. Heaven will be better even than spending a long summer evening hitting a tennis ball back-and-forth with Kate Winslet. Better than linguini pesto and a Peroni, at a sidewalk café on the Via Veneto, without a cloud in the sky.
We believe in life everlasting. We believe in the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. Because we believe, we hope for true happiness—the permanent, infinitely more intense version of what we sometimes have now. Let’s make our way there by faith and goodness.