Spirituality for Today – March 2008 – Volume 12, Issue 8

Everlasting Joy

By Rev. Mark Connolly

Photo of green trees in a green meadow against a vivid blue skyYears ago in many monasteries after Easter Sunday had a two day seminar on one word associated with Easter. It was the word heaven. And on that occasion you would have hundreds of Protestants, Catholic and Jewish theologians coming into the monastery discussing the one word heaven. And rightly so because the word heaven all by itself is mentioned over 611 times in the bible. And there is not anyone that has not partially reflected on what happens when his or her life is over.

At the seminar that was held in so many monasteries and they were quite provocative, non-theological and theological questions were constantly asked as to what kind of life all of us would have after our tour of duty on earth is over. Some of the non-theological questions were, will there be a golf course in heaven, will I be able to have my puppy in heaven. And the non-theological questions soon became few and far between because most people at the seminar were concerned with theologically what happens after we all die.

When you analyze this question, you have to consider it from the words Christ has spoken about concerning life after death. Christ is the only one who has conquered death. Christ has said to each one of us, I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me even if he is dead, will have life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day.

So in those words we have the promise of life after death form God's only son. Now we know God's only son cannot lie, cannot deceive, or be duplicitous to us in any way. God's son in those words about the resurrection after our death is telling the whole truth and noting but the truth and that is we have a destiny with Christ and a future with God in a place called heaven.

Every one of the theologians there knew the scriptures backwards and forwards. They had no disbelief in the words of Christ What was always relatively unknown to them is what kind of an existence will we all have in the kingdom called heaven. They analyzed the quotation of St. Paul in which he says, your eyes have not seen nor have your ears heard what God has in store for you who loved him on earth. They analyzed the scriptural words of St. John where he says, the former things of this earth will have passed away, there will be neither mourning nor grieving and you will experience everlasting joy. All of those scholars at that seminar believed that St. John was saying we are going to be living in a state where the climate is so pure that we will never hear the words cancer or heart attack or Alzheimer again.

No matter how many theologians assemble to discuss what this word heaven means, every thing has to be taken on faith. If you have faith in God and you believe in God's son then heaven is some thing that you can look forward to with great joy. Heaven in the language of many theologians in the past is a place where we will experience total forgiveness, where we will see the injustices of the world corrected. You know as well as I do when you look at the people who are living in the squalor and abject poverty of Bangladesh and Haiti that they are certainly living in a world where they have been victims of injustice. St. Bonaventure said, "True justice deserved by everyone will be shown in heaven especially towards those who lack it on earth".

Heaven will be a place where we will have the unique type of friendship that never deceives or never betrays us. Heaven is a place where there will be no climate of fear. Each one of us will have a different degree of serenity and each will experience what Christ spoke about when he said, my peace I give to you, my peace I leave unto you.

All of us take personal faith in the man who conquered death on Good Friday namely Jesus Christ. If you do not nurture your faith, if you do not nurture your sense of hope, if you do not develop a solid love of God on earth, you might miss what God has planned for all of us, a home beyond this, an earth beyond this that will find us experiencing everlasting peace, everlasting joy in the arms of God.

That is what Easter and heaven are all about.