Have you ever heard of the legendary King Midas? Besides fathering a son who is known as the “demonic reaper of men“—not his proudest achievement—Midas had a strange gift: anything he touched turned to gold (kind of like a Phrygian Steve Jobs.)
Midas came to mind when I considered the “as it is” part of Jesus’ great prayer. Though Midas’ story is likely embellished, I think his gift is certainly real. The power to make pedestrian, bland, ordinary things sparkle is no mere fairy tale: it’s precisely the power we beg for in this part of the prayer.
Now, before we move into “as it is” in heaven, we first need to ponder “how it is.” Many angry atheists accuse Christians of focusing on heaven to the neglect of the earth. But despite those accusations, we must begin by gazing upward. “If you read history, ” C.S. Lewis reminds, “you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.”
So, how is heaven? The best answer comes not through a book, but through an experience: the Mass. The Mass isn’t some entertaining program that invites us to regularly tune-in for advice—that’s not the Mass, that’s “Oprah.” The Mass , in its fullness, is instead a doorway to another world, a peek behind the heavenly veil, fuel for us wanna-be-Midas’s. Through the Mass, we don’t just step into heaven—heaven steps into us.
At the heart of every Mass, the Eucharist pulsates as the ultimate “as it is in heaven.” When a piece of ordinary bread changes into the Body of God, we witness precisely what Jesus was praying. Throughout, the liturgy allows us to experience all the things perpetually happening in heaven: community, healing, beauty, and worship.
But we don’t find heaven only in the Mass. We see it in the saints, too. Consider Mother Teresa lifting a neglected street boy, confirming his dignity through her smile. That’s the way it is in heaven, we say to ourselves. Consider St. Damien of Molokai rinsing the wounds of lepers, washing away their loneliness at the same time. That’s the way heaven is. Or look at Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati contracting polio by rubbing shoulders with the poor—that friction, though it killed him, typifies heaven’s love. Each of these saints scraped off the pains of our world in order to coat them with healing and beauty. Each of these saints, in other words, brought love to earth “as it is” in heaven.
Once we taste heaven through the Mass and the saints, then we bend our attention to earth. Note the direction of Jesus’ prayer. In the “Our Father”, it is the earth that is slowly being transformed into heaven, not the other way around. As much as we desire to be “lifted up” to heaven, this prayer actually encourages us to pull heaven downward.
This means that we must parade heaven’s banner toward the hellish gates of our world, the ones that Jesus says will eventually crumble. Then, we extend our golden touch. To the hell of hunger our hands bring relief; to the hell of loneliness our touch brings community; to the hell of abuse our arms bring rescue. We plant beauty in worn down tires, proclaim grace on filthy walls, and redeem symbols of death. We drift to the margins, die to ourselves, and lift the boots of sin, seeking to make “all things new” as they are in heaven.
Ultimately, though, the “as it is” is aimed at us. In heaven we’ll all be saints, but the “as it is” begs God to make us saints now. So as we pray these words, may we become saints on earth, as in heaven. And may we harness the power of Midas, transforming the dull into the divine. Just as Midas’ touch brought forth gold, so may our touch bring forth heaven.
Brandon Vogt is a 24-year old Catholic writer who blogs at The Thin Veil. He is also the author of The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops who Tweet, which will be released in August 2011 by Our Sunday Visitor. Brandon and his wonderful wife Kathleen live in Florida where they are attempting to raise two saints: the prophetic Isaiah and the contemplative Teresa.
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