Have you ever pondered the question, “what will Heaven be like?” I don’t expect to end up there anytime soon but it is a question we might ask. After all, we expect to spend eternity there.
The question comes to mind now for me for two reasons. First, our gospel readings the last two Sundays (see my homilies July 19, 2020-16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A and July 26, 2020-17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A) have included parables of Jesus talking about what the Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to.
The second reason is, following my recent article, “Purgatory as a Gift That Gets Us in Shape for Heaven,” it seems appropriate to talk about Heaven.
Unlike the word, “Purgatory,” that is not used in the Bible (“Purgatory as a Gift,” 2), the word “Heaven” appears in the Bible (New American Bible Revised Edition translation) 705 times. Clearly, it is an important topic.
How do you picture Heaven? Do you think of a place with blue sky, white puffy clouds, and angels flying around on wings? Children (and adults) wonder if our pets will be there. How about our loved ones? I know some people who don’t like meetings. They say there are no meetings in Heaven (and Hell is one endless meeting).
What does the Bible say Heaven will be like? The recent parables of Jesus speak of it like a mustard seed, yeast, weeds, and treasure. It certainly is a treasure for there we will be with God. What greater treasure can there be?
There are people today who seem to take God’s forgiveness for granted and think there is no Hell and everyone gets into Heaven. Looking at the Parable of the Weeds (16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A), they seem to interpret Jesus saying not to pull out the weeds to say everyone gets into Heaven. They need to look at verses 13:40-43 where Jesus speaks of the final judgment, “Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Jesus himself says it is not enough to call him, “Lord, Lord” in Matthew 7:21-23. It is not enough to call Jesus “Lord.” We need to live what we believe.
So, what must we do to inherit eternal life? This is the question that leads to Jesus’ response in Matthew 19:16-29. Jesus first responds by speaking of our need to follow God’s Commandments. Then, Jesus says, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). It is not easy to get into Heaven but do not worry. In Matthew 19:26, Jesus continues, ““For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” It is possible for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven because Jesus willingly sacrificed his life on the Cross so that our sins will be forgiven when we repent and confess them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” Thank you Jesus!
Jesus himself assures us that He prepares a place in his Father’s house for all who believe in him as “the way and the truth and the life” (see John 14:1-6).
I started with the question, “what will Heaven be like.” I admit I have not given a direct answer to that. I have referred to Jesus’ parables. I will also point you to the Book of Revelation beginning in chapter 4 where it speaks of the heavenly liturgy. For more on the heavenly liturgy and how the Mass connects us to the heavenly liturgy, I point you to The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn (Doubleday publishing, 1999).
If you are looking for a physical description of Heaven, I can’t offer that. Just as I said in “Purgatory as a Gift That Gets Us in Shape for Heaven” that we shouldn’t limit our thinking of Purgatory as a “place” (2) or a time “4”, the same is true for Heaven.
Heaven is a treasure so valuable that we should be willing to give up everything of this earthly world for it but it is not a treasure because it is a beautiful physical place. Heaven is the greatest treasure there is because in Heaven we will be with God.
Hell is eternal separation from God.
To be in Heaven is to spend eternity with God. What more do we need need to know? What more can one ask for?