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
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”?
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