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Saint Stephen, Deacon and Protomartyr

Pope Benedict Says We Need to Speak and Pray About Heaven

Angel at the gates of heaven, pearly gates, heavenly gates  The pope in a recent homily, recently warned that true obedience to God depends on truly knowing Him and warned against the danger of using "obedience to God as a pretext for following our own desires." How many times have we heard, "What would Jesus do?" by someone whom we suspect is doing precisely that.

It's also true that contemporary Christians have "a certain fear of speaking about eternal life...We talk of things that are useful to the world...We show that Christianity can help make the world a better place, but we dare not say that the end of the world and goal of the Christian is eternal life - and the criteria of life in this world come from this goal - this we dare not say."

The great hope that there is eternal life gives us courage and joy and from this comes the light the illuminates this world as well.

How do we as Christians, live in this passing world with our hearts set on the world that will never end, as the Eucharistic prayer during Lent reminded us? Not by rejecting the wholesome, life-giving pleasures this world has to offer, but relishing them, realizing at once that they are temporary, and most amazingly of all, only a slight foretaste of the joys of heaven. This way we can at one and the same time, enjoy earthly pleasures as gifts from God, and yet still have a Christian vision focused on eternal life.

This beautiful day in all its glorious splendor, is a tiny taste of heaven. Think of the most peace filled, joyful experience you can remember - a birth of a child, your wedding, an accomplishment you worked hard for, and realize they are insights to heaven.

Our liturgies themselves are foretastes of heaven, especially the Eucharist and the sacraments of Baptism we celebrate today. Prayed with reverence and enthusiasm, they transport us for a while to another place, or should. That is why the way we celebrate liturgy is crucial; good liturgy is prayed not to demonstrate either our creativity on the one hand, or how well we can follow a script on the other. 

Pope Benedict encourages us to think about heaven, not in a literal way - as to its geography or location, nor in simply an abstract way, and surely not as some eternal amusement park of wish fulfillment. Benedict said it quite simply, but in a way which has me thinking anew about heaven: Heaven is God.

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