Now that we are still in various forms of quarantine, it might be timely to remind ourselves of our need to keep heaven in mind. The Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ gives us good occasion for this consideration, actually a crucial one if we do not want to lose our proper bearing here on earth.
The simple reason is that heaven is where we all came from, since we all came from God, and where we are meant to be in our definitive state of life for all eternity. That’s how God, our Creator and Father, wants it. He made us his image and likeness.
For this reason he endowed us with the capacity to know and to love, and gave us his grace so that what we cannot attain through our natural powers, not to mention the dragging effects of our sinfulness, we can still manage to attain through his supernatural power to which we have to correspond as best that we can.
That is why St. Paul tells us very clearly: “Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on earth.” (Col 3) It’s not that we disdain the earthly things. What is meant is that we have to learn how to relate everything to heaven, and not get entangled in our earthly and temporal affairs. Everything is meant to start and end with God who is the Creator of everything and the very foundation of reality.
Thus, we are supposed to be always aware that we are in some kind of journey toward heaven. Our earthly sojourn is just a test to see if we also would like to be with God in heaven as he wants us to be, since he does not force us to be with him. He wants us to also choose him freely, that is, to love him. Our earthly life is actually a test of love.
This test of love is truly a big challenge for us, since we have to learn how to be both in the world and yet to have our mind and heart in heaven. We cannot enter heaven without going through our test here on earth.
But St. Augustine gives us an idea of how to go about this task. It’s a matter of growing in our desire for heaven while here on earth. “Such is our Christian life,” he said. “By desiring heaven we exercise the powers of our soul. Now this exercise will be effective only to the extent that we free ourselves from desires leading to infatuation with this world.”
How important, therefore, it is to always rectify our intentions in all our earthly and temporal affairs. That is, we should see to it that whatever we may doing, even if in the end, what we do could be considered wrong or deficient in some sense, should be done out of faith and love for God and for others.
This is to live out what St. Paul once said: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.”(1 Cor 10, 31) It’s in this way that we can somehow live with the great mystery of heaven. This is how we can set our hearts on heaven while still grounded here on earth.
We should then realize deeply that we need to develop the virtue of hope. This virtue gives us the bigger picture of our life—the ultimate dimensions and parameters of our life, our ultimate goal and the means, energy and impulses to be used.
Our present condition that involves an increase of pressure, confusing knowledge overdrives, increasingly sophisticated challenges and difficulties, require that we need to seriously cultivate this virtue. There’s no other way. It’s either that or we get into a free-fall toward disorder, chaos and desperation.
Thus, we have to make a regular monitoring and accounting of all the developments in our life to see if we are still on track.
Fr. Roy Cimagala is the Chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise, Talamban, Cebu City (firstname.lastname@example.org)./WDJ