All during Lent we were on a pilgrimage to the Cross.
Now we are at the empty tomb.
The next step on our journey? Heaven.
This is what our Faith is about: heaven.
Resurrection -- Easter -- the seven sacraments:
Christ went through all that he went through,
because he wants us with him in heaven.
So: What is heaven?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
says a number of things about heaven.
If we die in God’s grace and friendship,
and after any needed purification – that is, Purgatory –
then we “live forever with Christ,”
and we are “like God for ever, for [we] ‘see him as he is,’ face to face” (1023).
Heaven is “paradise with Christ”;
it is the “perfect life with the Most Blessed Trinity,”
with Mary, the angels and all the saints.
Again, quoting the Catechism,
“Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment
of the deepest human longings,
the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (1024).
But the key idea is that
“To live in heaven is to be with Christ” (1025).
So if you want to know what heaven is like, look at the Gospels.
Look at the Apostles who spent their time with Jesus,
And ask yourself: is that what you want?
Do you want to be with him?
Know this: Jesus Christ really wants you with him in heaven.
The Cross is the proof of that. Look what God went through.
If you ever wonder if God loves you, and more than that,
if you wonder if he wants you to forgive you, look at the Cross.
Still: you and I have to choose this.
And that choice we make today – and every day.
We don’t just wander our way to Heaven.
Heaven is a choice.
More than that: heaven isn’t only after death; heaven starts here.
This is what the first reading describes:
God’s people living changed lives. Heavenly lives.
If it is true that you and I begin to experience heaven in this life,
then surely the opposite is true:
that we can begin to experience hell on earth, too.
We might think of Judas, who betrayed Jesus.
He knew he had done wrong; he even expressed sorrow.
But what he did not do, that we know of, was ask for mercy.
If Judas went to hell – as I fear he did –
His hell started for him long before he got there.
Sadly, a lot of people are in a similar place:
They have decided they cannot change,
they cannot leave habits of drink or anger, hatred or lust behind them.
There’s a secret about sin that no one ever tells you.
It starts out so nice. The being drunk feels good. The lust feels good.
The self-righteous wrath feels so good. And it will, for a while.
But over time, it doesn’t make you feel as good as it did.
And you get to the point where it doesn’t make you even a little happy;
but you don’t know how to live without it.
Some of the most damnable words are: “I can’t change.”
That is a lie. The true statement would be, “I’ve stopped trying.”
Thank God Thomas did not rule out changing his mind.
Christ came back, just for him, and said, “put your hands in my side.”
Our Lord Jesus will go to amazing lengths to rescue us.
The most beautiful sign of this is so simple, we miss it.
That is the sacrament of confession.
When you and I are in the confessional, we are that thief on the cross.
Absolution from a priest is to be in paradise.
To be forgiven is our ticket to heaven.
But, what if I lose that grace through mortal sin, what do I do?
I go back to Jesus, in the confessional, and I ask again.
I wonder if we shouldn’t put a sign on the confessional door:
“Doorway to heaven.” It’s true!
Of course, a lot of people get frustrated because,
even after you come from confession, you struggle with the same sins.
Indeed. That’s purgatory. No one escapes the way of the Cross.
But if we are willing, you and I can have our purgatory here.
It is not easy. It can be excruciatingly hard.
If you want become holy,
Whatever else you do, keep coming to confession.
Some people avoid it,
precisely because they keep tripping over the same sins.
Here’s what I’m going to tell you.
No matter what you think, if you keep coming to confession,
You will change. It will happen.
It will happen on God’s timetable and in his way, not yours.
He will make you a saint!
But not on the strength of you wanting it, which is puny;
But on the strength of His wanting it: which is everything.