HEAVEN (Our Father, Word by Word)

March 23, 2011 | Uncategorized | 16 comments

by Steve G. (a longtime commenter and regular guest writer here)

If you really come down to any large story that interests people…or can hold their attention for a considerable time…the story is practically always a human story, it’s practically always about one thing isn’t it…death!…the inevitability of death…

There’s a quotation from Simone de Beauvoir that I read in the paper the other day which seems to me to put it in a nutshell…I think I’ll read it to you.

“There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that happens to man is ever natural, since his presence calls the whole world into question. All men must die, but for every man his death is an accident, and even if he knows of it and consents to it, it is an unjustifiable violation.”

Now you may agree with those words or not, but those are the keysprings of the Lord of the Rings.

– J.R.R Tolkien, from a special on Tolkien and the LOTR done by the BBC in 1968

When I put on my psychologist hat, my own observation…that most people who have depression, or anxiety, or neurosis…way way down…are afraid of death.

– Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Hope in the Lord – Episode 11

Why would I open a reflection about heaven with a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien (a devout Catholic) about death, and a quote from Fr. Groeschel (a holy priest and psychologist) about mental illness?

Because they bring out, I think in a profound way, an issue that is intimately intertwined with Heaven and how we should think about it. This connection is also made for us by Fr. Groeschel in his wonderful little book After This Life.

His advice is that we should NEVER think about death without thinking also about the eternal life which we call heaven, and vice versa.  “These two mysteries, “ he writes, “are each halves of the same whole, they are two sides to the same coin” (p. 85). It is only heaven that gives us hope to face the un-faceable…the unjustifiable violation mentioned by Tolkien. Heaven and the hope it offers is our most powerful weapon against the fear and reality of death. Do we regularly ponder how powerful a weapon it is…this Hope of Heaven?

Think about how the world, how we at times, really think of life, and of why we really sin. If we are honest, I think we’ll see that we all feel…cheated…that this precious life has been sabotaged at various points, by the hurts and pains of life. It’s been rigged against us even from the outset, and the hurts and wounds we suffer seem monstrous. We desire healing, we desire wholeness, but hope often fails, and we feel that time will run out on us before things can be made right.

So we are faced with this ominous shadow hanging over us, and as we grow older we see that we may lose it at any point through illness or misfortune, and so we often turn to things that give us pleasure, or distract us from the dark reality that time is running out. That is why we are always in such a rush, isn’t it? I want to get on with this duty or obligation, so I can move on to something related to making myself at least feel better…something to ‘medicate’ against the pain…because time is running out.

And look around us at this mess of our culture. Listen to the music, watch the movies, and talk to young people today. Modern life has given up something more critical than faith, it has given up hope; it has given up heaven, and has become overwhelmingly dark and despairing. Without the hope of heaven, how could it be otherwise?

But we Christians, we have the real medicine for this unjustifiable violation, this accident of death…we have the Hope of Heaven. And if that hope is real for us, if we can hold our eyes fixed on heaven as our eternal destiny in a vital way, we should realize that we need not be in a rush to fix everything at once. We should instead take the next good step, attend to what God has put before us, and see that in heaven, we will have an eternity for God to heal our wounds, to fix the sabotage, and to make things right.

Death tells us that time is running out. Heaven tells us that we have literally all the time we’ll ever need.

This Lent, pray for an increase in hope for yourself. Pray for an increase in hope for me. Pray for an increase in hope for all your loved ones. Pray for an increase in hope for the entire world. And in the midst of those prayers, remember that Heaven is where our Father dwells…and it is the same place in which our hope resides.

And let us also remember that through the cross and resurrection that we look toward this Lent, Christ has shown us the way to that blessed realm we call heaven.
.

What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “Heaven”?

Click here to see all the posts in this series

16 Comments

  1. Wsquared

    Thank you for writing this, Steve G.

    This part “Death tells us that time is running out. Heaven tells us that we have literally all the time we’ll ever need” gives me a lot of food for thought. Because it fits very nicely with something one of our deacons said while giving a homily once (and in the homily, he referenced C.S. Lewis and the Screwtape letters): the Devil tells us that we have all the time in the world.

  2. Mary Beth

    mmmm.

    Good food for a melancholic to consume. I remember hearing once,in a lecture on the four temperaments, that it is vital to help a melancholic focus on the resurrection, and not the crucifixion. Having several melancholic children, I went home all smug thinking I had a new parenting tool. I did not yet recognize how much a melancholic I am.

    Lent is all about hope, and we too often fail to see it.

    Thank you, Steve and Jen.

  3. Patty H

    I am not sure if it is just my browser but I don’t see the quote from Tolkien; I only see the one from Simone de Beauvoir and Fr. Groeshel.

    • SteveG

      PattH,
      I quoted Tolkien, who in turn quoted Simone de Beauvoir. It reads like this…

      Toklien: If you really come down to any large story that interests people…or can hold their attention for a considerable time…the story is practically always a human story, it’s practically always about one thing isn’t it…death!…the inevitability of death…

      There’s a quotation from Simone de Beauvoir that I read in the paper the other day which seems to me to put it in a nutshell…I think I’ll read it to you.’

      “There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that happens to man is ever natural, since his presence calls the whole world into question. All men must die, but for every man his death is an accident, and even if he knows of it and consents to it, it is an unjustifiable violation.”

      Tolkien: Now you may agree with those words or not, but those are the keysprings of the Lord of the Rings.

  4. Marco

    You wrote:

    “But we Christians, we have the real medicine for this unjustifiable violation, this accident of death…we have the Hope of Heaven. And if that hope is real for us, if we can hold our eyes fixed on heaven as our eternal destiny in a vital way, we should realize that we need not be in a rush to fix everything at once. We should instead take the next good step, attend to what God has put before us, and see that in heaven, we will have an eternity for God to heal our wounds, to fix the sabotage, and to make things right.

    Death tells us that time is running out. Heaven tells us that we have literally all the time we’ll ever need.

    Jennifer thank you so much for writing this post. I can totally relate to the part where you mention that if one has a heavenly gaze then that person does not need to worry about fixing the world’s problems at once. I have a tendecy of falling into this trap myself. I always feel that I am up against some type of clock; that if I don’t solve the world’s problems today then I will never get the chance to. Your post helped to put my disordered thinking in its proper perspective, the heavenly perspective. Thanks keep up the great work.

  5. Manda

    I love any post that begins with a quote from Tokien 🙂 But seriously this gave me a lot of good things to reflect on, things I needed to hear (read) very much at this time.

  6. Sr Anne

    Our Sr. Cecilia died 12 days ago at age 57, but not before giving us a real treasure. We have her on video, speaking to us about her impending death, and about her real, vibrant hope to remain part of our community in the next stage of life. It’s a phenomenal testimony to Christian hope, and I can’t help but think how much good it can do in a world where some sneer at the “childish dream” of unbroken ties of love from this life to the next… (I put the website post as mine so you can find it, but it’s really from Sr Helena Burns)

  7. Pam Miguel-Calos

    I just want to share this song with you. I learned this during a Retreat in 2001 and it stuck on me eversince. It has always reminded me that our life on earth is just really a TRAINING FOR HEAVEN.

    Heaven Is My Home
    by John Keating

    Heaven is my home, I am Kingdom-bound.
    I am not my own, for once I was lost, but in Christ I am found!
    All my treasure on high, safely set apart.
    For in heaven I find the fount of my joy, the source of my life,
    The first love of my heart.

  8. MelanieB

    Awesome reflection. I love the Tolkien quote.

  9. Mary

    Thanks Steve and Jen,

    That quote by father Groeschel reminds me of a line from the movie “Moonstruck”, where Olympia Dukakis tells Cher that men cheat on their wives, “…because they fear death.” Father Groeschel’s quote is going to be with me all day.

  10. Jeanne G. @knowledgehungry

    I love this:

    “Death tells us that time is running out. Heaven tells us that we have literally all the time we’ll ever need.”

    But, our time is running out… there are some things we have to do before we die: If we don’t get right with Christ, we won’t have all the time we ever need, or that time will be burningly occupied… But, if we believe in Him and serve Him, we have hope to have all that time. If we don’t, we have all the time in the world, all right, but we won’t be having fun.

  11. Marie

    I agree with Fr. G. I used to struggle with anxiety. When i got to the
    root of it i realized that the providence of God is what i needed to trust. He holds me in the palm of his hand and yes suffering will come but He will be with me. And also He gives grace enough for the present moment.

  12. Alexandra Kent

    Hi Jennifer,

    I had no idea where to post this because I could not leave a comment on your latest post, so I am putting it here.

    I just wanted to say that I read what PZ Myers said about you. I do not know what I would have done, but I do know a few things.

    1) This man is not extraordinarily well educated. One simply cannot write the way that he did and be taken seriously by anyone with a solid educational background. Maybe at a liberal government funded college, but a real university with top-notch professors would just not speak that way about another person. Regardless of if they agreed or disagreed. It was so immature and uneducated. (Yep, he teaches at a state school. My point exactly. No offense to state schools, I did my undergrad at one, but I personally know the difference in quality.)

    2) The people that commented on his blog also displayed a gross level of immaturity. Very few people seemed to be able to respond in any sort of dignified manner. They just took his basic “I am going to insult anyone whose philosophy that I do not agree with” and ran with it. Their behavior and comments just reveal who they are at their core. It was like reading a high school teachers post who is trying to act cool by insulting and then hearing all the teenagers running with it “yeah man! I can make even grosser comments than you! Cool dude!” Whatever.

    Anyways, I would not take what he said seriously. Or anyone who commented. Some people just manifest evil and ugliness into the world and seem to enjoy it. Laughter is the best medicine for that 🙂

  13. Lana

    This is a very good post. Jen, I love to read Steve G’s stuff. Invite him back soon, please! I think there are so few comments because it is difficult to understand. The concept, not the writing, I mean.

    Anyway, thank you. Very profound.

  14. JimC

    Steve G, thanks for a post about hope that doesn’t treat it as wishful thinking but rather as the confident expectation of heaven. I agree with you that such hope is the answer to the “depression, or anxiety, or neurosis” which Fr. Groeschel saw rooted in the fear of death in your opening citation.

    My wife has long suffered from a serious chronic illness and has lived through many “near dying” experiences, i.e. medical crises that could quickly lead to death. After one doctor left her hospital room some years ago following another grim prognosis, we reflected, “What’s the worse that could happen here? You could die and go to heaven. I guess that’s not so bad.” After that, it wasn’t so difficult to wait for the results of the next test or the outcome of the latest treatment. After all, why be anxious about what the doctor will say next if the worst that could happen is that you’d get to go to heaven. As St. Paul wrote, “…to live is Christ, but to die is gain.”

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