Friday, December 13, 2013

why heaven?

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

during Advent we have been looking at the traditional themes for this season; death, judgement, heaven, and hell. Tonight is the turn of the third of those, as we ask the question: 'Why heaven?'

I suppose we should begin by talking a little about what heaven is. Heaven is the place where God dwells. Which since God is omnipresent in a sense could be taken to mean that heaven is also everywhere. But when we talk about heaven as the dwelling place of Creator of all that is, visible and invisible, we tend to think in terms of somewhere outside of the limits of time and space in which we have our existence.

But of course, we would have little interest in heaven, except in an academic sense, if it were not for the possibility that we ourselves will go there. So what is heaven for us? It is not, I think, much like the images that art and Hollywood gives us a place full of fluffy clouds where we'll sit around all day polishing our halos and playing our harps.

Heaven for us is the place of supreme and perfect happiness; it is the abode of not only of angels, archangels, and all the other choirs of angels, but what we call the Communion of Saints – the place where all those who die in a state of Grace will go to spend all of eternity in the presence of the one who made them; they will see God 'face to face' as St Paul tells us in first Corinthians as they stand forever in the beatific vision; it is our final home, the place where we were created to be, the place we spend all our life on earth working to attain, even as we know that we are not worthy of it, and therefore hope that God in his mercy and through the merits of our Saviour, will bring us there at the last.

That heaven exists is a natural and logical outcome that follows upon the existence of God. But why he should not only have created us, but created us to be with him in heaven for all eternity, is less obvious. Revelation and reason teach us that God is complete and perfect in and of himself; he needs nothing from us; he gains nothing from having created us. This of course stands in opposition of the popular 'straw-man' argument put forward by militant atheists, that the God of the Bible is greedy for worship, almost pathetic in his need to be praised and adored; so much so that he is forced to create lessor beings so that they will endlessly feed his ego; and threatening with dire punishment all who dare to resist his demands. Naturally they heroically refuse to worship such a God. 

Personally I have never quite understood why they get so worked up about something they don't believe in; nor why they should attempt to cast themselves in so brave a light, if they truly believe that the punishments this angry God threatens them are figments of the imagination.

But, of course, this caricature of God itself stands in opposition to centuries of what both Scriptures and the Church teaches: that God created the universe out of nothing, not out of any need that he had, but out of love. God is the fullness and perfection of love and part of the expression of that love is our creation in his image and likeness. In that love he offers us a place with him where he dwells himself for all eternity. In his love he gives us free-will and does not force us to accept what he offers. And in his love, knowing our weakness and frailty and foolishness, he goes to unimaginable lengths to help those who wish to be with him to attain that beatific vision, to see him face to face, to join with the angels and saints and enjoy the perfect happiness of being in his presence for all eternity.

And that is why there is a heaven that awaits those who end the days of this life in a state of grace – because God is love and wills that it be so.

This is the most wonderful news possible for all people – that they have been created by a loving God; and they have been created for a purpose; and that purpose is eternal life with him in heaven; and he will do everything possible to ensure that we fulfil our destiny. Heaven tells us that our lives have meaning; that in the grand scheme of things we do matter; and that as small and weak we may seem and feel, we are loved and held as precious by the most powerful force in the universe, the one who created and sustains it.

So let us pray that you and I, and all his children will accept the offer he makes to us in his love, and the saving Grace that he offers to help and guide us, and come at the last to the place he created us to be; with him in heaven for ever. Amen. 

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