The Road to Heaven
Are you on the road to heaven?
I think it is safe to say that we all want to make it there; the alternative is not pleasant! However, do we ever take time to consider whether our actions in a moment or our current way of living is leading us toward our goal? Today I want to pose the question to all of us: Are you living, right now, on a pathway leading you to heaven?
In the old Baltimore Catechism, our purpose in life was made very clear: Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in the next. That is our goal; it is where the road for God’s people must lead. However, how do we know for sure that we are walking that road and not just wandering in the neighborhood?
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. These are the men and women who have “made it there.” They are the great “cloud of witnesses” – “the multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue, [who stand] before the throne and before the Lamb.” They are the saints whose example and prayerful support can help us on our way to heaven ourselves. They followed that path to heaven and have found eternal glory with God. But they did not get there accidentally. They followed a guide; and we have that guide as well.
Jesus outlines the Christian program today in the Beatitudes. These nine statements are Christ’s gift to the world that can lead us all to a better way of coexisting, a better way of living, a better way of being, so that we too can reach the glory of heaven and be forever happy – or “blessed” as He says. The Beatitudes, I think, speak to us in a special way this year, as we struggle with so much sadness, hatred, division, loss, and suffering. Let’s walk along this road that Jesus maps out:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit …” These are the ones who understand in a stark way that everything that they need and everything that they have comes only from the goodness of the Father who loves them. When we are overfilled with this world’s goods, we can lose sight of this fact of God’s foundational goodness – even believing that we deserve the best and anything we want. Look to the refugee who has left their familiar world to find safety, shelter, and a future for their family; they know where their blessings come from, and for that they are truly blessed. Our love for them is an expression of our own awareness of God’s goodness. Dismissal of them is ignorance of God.
“Blessed are they who mourn …” This year has seen a global pandemic that none of us has seen in our lifetime. Sometimes, entire families have been destroyed by this disease. Many of us have lost loved ones or seen them suffer without even being able to hold their hand. Mourning is a familiar disposition this year. Blessedness in mourning comes from knowing that we have loved and been loved so deeply that it hurts; and that same love is what we are called to reflect toward others. It makes us gentle and kind with others, since we are all carrying our own burdens.
“Blessed are the meek …” There are not many examples of meekness that we can point to. This is because meekness does not seek attention. There is a quiet love with which a meek person goes about their business; and we often don’t feel their effects until after they have passed through our lives. The meek are selfless and think of others. I have seen this often in the caregivers and medical personnel who have offered care for those who suffer. This is their job; they would do it anyway; but they are doing it without fanfare and with great love. Meekness lets us experience the softness of God’s touch.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness…” These are the ones who seek justice – not revenge, not upending the social order, but seeking to bring society to a higher level of concern and care for others, especially the weak and disenfranchised. It means treating others with respect and dignity and seeing them as equal heirs to the live of grace to which we are called. It doesn’t matter if they are black or white, male or female, straight or gay, eloquent or simple. We should seek to be in right relationships with others if we want to hope to be in right relationship with God.
“Blessed are the merciful…” Mercy is an attribute of the Father that Jesus reveals in His parables. This mercy is certainly about forgiveness, yes, but it is more than that. Mercy is about seeking the conversion of others and being ready to rejoice in their reunion with you and with the community. Merciful people don’t celebrate other people’s failure; rather, they pray for their enemies and open their arms to those who hae fallen and strive to return. Like the father of the prodigal son, the merciful one celebrates the reconciliation that sinners enjoy when they turn away from their errors and doesn’t hold past failures against them.
“Blessed are the clean of heart…” These are those who in the eyes of the world might be “naïve.” Their simplicity of love and faith can seem to others to be foolishness or childishness, but their purity allows God’s love to shine fully and brightly in them and through them. People like St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Maria Goretti, and St. Agnes reveal that purity of heart can only be satisfied by union with God; and Jesus promises that “they will see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers…” How we need these people in our world today! Peacemakers seek compromise and reconciliation. They look for common ground between enemies and strive to change angry hearts to caring ones. Peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but above all it is a disposition of the heart. A peacemaker is someone who gives others a sense of balance amid the chaos of the world, and that peace soothes our soul.
Becoming a saint must never be seen by us as an unrealistic goal. In the grand scheme of things, becoming a saint is really our only final option. The other is to go to hell. I certainly don’t want that! The celebration of All Saints should be a reminder that we too belong to this multitude; that, as St. John says, “We are God’s children now.” To be a child of God is to be the object of God’s dream for you: that you be forever happy with Him in heaven – that you be blessed.
The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decision moral choices (outlined in the Beatitudes). It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches that true happiness is found not in riches or well-being (or anything that this world offers), but in God alone, the source of all good and of all love (CCC 1723).
Are you on the road to heaven?
The Beatitudes and the example of the saints will get you there.