Promise of Heaven

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/05/19 at 12:00 AM
  • Last Sunday, after hearing the story of Jesus giving to St. Peter the keys of the kingdom, I spoke about the authority of the Church and the importance of being obedient to Her teachings because they are the teachings of Christ Himself.
  • Indeed, our very salvation hinges on our incorporation into the Church, and being fully incorporated into the loving embrace of Holy Mother Church requires that we be obedient to Her – even if we personally disagree with Her teachings.
  • From my own experience I know that being obedient to Holy Mother Church requires for most of us that we die to self. It requires that we set aside our own will so that we may submit ourselves to the will of God.
  • This is painful, because following God’s will rather than our own means we must put to death any selfish or sinful desires we might have. It means that we can’t always do what we want.
  • This Sunday we hear the follow up to last Sunday’s Gospel story. Today we see St. Peter chafing at the idea that Jesus must suffer and die, a very natural response because Peter obviously loves Jesus very deeply. None of us likes to see our loved ones suffer.
  • But more importantly, we hear Jesus say to St. Peter: “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
  • With these words Jesus confirms for us yet again the necessity of suffering in following Him – something we’ve heard many times in the past couple of months.
  • To be a Christian with integrity, we must be willing to die to ourselves and carry our crosses in this life, for there is no other way to Heaven.
  • And truly, being willing to sacrifice is the key to following God. God created us to be sacrificial creatures, for He created us in His image and likeness. God is love, and the living heart of love is sacrifice, which He showed us by dying on the cross.
  • As St. Paul says in our 2nd reading today, we must be willing to become living sacrifices – conforming ourselves not to this age, but allowing ourselves to be transformed by Christ. We must learn to think not as human beings do, but as God does.
  • Simply put, if we wish to live with Jesus His resurrection, we must be willing to live with Him His Passion and death now! We must be willing to live His earthly life of suffering and service.
  • But if we only focus on the necessity of suffering, we lose sight of the bigger picture: the fact that Jesus also tells St. Peter of the great reward we’ll receive for our self-denial: eternal life! And this hope for eternal life, my friends, is what we must always keep before us.
  • As Jesus Himself tells us, our suffering in this life is not for naught! It reaps for us an eternal reward that we cannot even fathom. And this must be our sure and certain hope, and what motivates us to live our lives for and with Christ Jesus.
  • While it is a good thing to live our lives for Christ because we fear the pains of hell, it is a much better thing to be live our lives for Christ because we love Him and hope for Heaven.
  • What is most wonderful about this promise of the joy of Heaven is that we don’t have to wait until we die to begin experiencing it! Indeed, the saints show us that when we submit ourselves to God’s will, we find peace and joy – even in the midst of suffering and hardship!
  • Even while carrying difficult and burdensome crosses, we can experience a heavenly joy and peace. Of course if we rebel against our crosses, complaining about them and resenting them, then they become all the heavier.
  • It is because it’s important that we keep the hope of Heaven before us that Holy Mother Church requires us under the pain of sin to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.
  • It is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we experience a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet! In the Mass Heaven and earth actually come together as we mystically experience anew Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.
  • Holy Mother Church thereby very wisely obliges Her children to come to the Mass every week so that we do not forget what it is we are living for! She wants us to taste Heaven now so that we will be better able to set our hearts on Heaven as we live our lives on earth.
  • And so important is it that we get this regular dose of Heaven that the Church teaches that it is gravely sinful to willfully miss Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation. If you have missed Mass willfully, please be sure to confess this sin before receiving Holy Communion.
  • It is also for this reason that every element of the Mass should be heavenly in nature. For example, the architecture of churches should by their beauty, symmetry, proportion, and symbolism lead us naturally to contemplate the heavenly realities we all hope to one-day share.
  • Churches should also possess artwork and statues of saints that call to mind the mysteries of our beautiful Catholic faith.
  • The music for Mass should also be otherworldly and ethereal, and not be in any way reminiscent of the music of popular culture, lest it induce us to be attached to the things of this world.
  • And the items used for the Mass: the chalices, patens, ciboria, even the vestments of the priest should be elegant and made of the best materials possible to underscore the importance of what it is we are doing at the Mass.
  • It is for all of these reasons that we, as a parish, have endeavored so hard to create the liturgical environment here at St. Ann’s that we now enjoy.
  • Choosing to build and adorn our church in the manner we have, and gradually moving to the use of the music we now employ have not been arbitrary decisions based upon whim or personal tastes.
  • The decisions we’ve made have been based on a loving obedience to the Church’s directives for the liturgy, art, and architecture, and out of a deep reverence for our very rich Catholic tradition.
  • Sensing over the years that the language we’ve been using at Mass in English-speaking countries is not as transcendent and heavenly as it should be, the Church has now made the decision to retranslate the English version of the Roman Missal.
  • As you hopefully all know, the Church in the English-speaking world will begin using this new translation this coming Advent. Foldout cards with the new translation are in the pew racks.
  • While change of this type is always difficult and will take some getting used to, over time this new translation will help us to better focus our minds and hearts on the heavenly realities.
  • The new translation is more theologically precise and a great deal richer and more poetic. It is also much more formal in nature, but this is because the way we speak with God should be different than the way we speak with one another!
  • By focusing us better on the heavenly realities, this new translation will help better prepare us for the joys of Heaven!
  • My brothers and sisters, a glorious and eternal future awaits us all in Heaven! This is what our Lord promises us in the Gospel today. Yet we will not be able to experience it unless we are willing to sacrifice and die to self now.
  • Let us each pray that our own personal love for God may be strengthened so that we will always be willing to sacrifice our own will in order to follow the will of God.
  • And let us all recommit ourselves to being faithful to attending Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligations so that we might be better prepared for the heavenly realities that await those who love and serve God.



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