22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time C


The second reading got my thinking of heaven and an interesting conversation I had with a friend.  She said that the idea of heaven was not that important to her on a day to day basis.  It was not her motivation for doing good or caring for others.  She did not do the good she does in order to get eternal life.  And I have to admit that is probably true for me and many of you.  We tend to do the right thing simply because it is right and doing things well just to get into heaven seems like cheating.  We are more likely to do something for goodness’ sake rather than for heaven’s sake.

I thought why this might be.  First off, when we do things as not motivated by heaven, we can act the same as non-believers.  We can be moved to the right thing just like secular humanists.  It is good because it good.  Secondly, I think hopefully that many of us have moved away from the Santa Claus model of God.  You know, God is making a list, checking it twice with the only difference being that if you are on the naughty list you go straight to hell.  Finally, as we have dwelt on all this holy year, our merciful God is looking to save us, not condemn us so we feel fairly certain that eternal damnation is a longshot.

I would dismiss the notion of heaven as a motivating factor altogether, except that Jesus thought of heaven as very important and we don’t get to dismiss what Jesus found important.  It seemed that heaven was always on his mind.  It is deeply embedded in our prayers and our liturgy. We say it without thinking about it all the time.  “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Think of all the beatitudes, our moral guide, which promise, “Yours is the kingdom of heaven,” and “Your reward will be great in heaven.”  Even in today’s Gospel, people who invite to their home those who cannot repay “will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  You can actually say the Jesus movement is a heaven movement. He spoke about the kingdom to come as the answer and the joy he brought into the world.   Why was heaven so important to Jesus as a motivating force for all of us?

Perhaps because you cannot understand what Jesus did for us without focusing on heaven.  Grace had dripped down from heaven though creation and God’s gifts to humanity.  But something different happened with the incarnation.  The most solid divide in all reality, the wall between heaven and earth, had been burst through.  In the life of Jesus Christ, heaven invaded earth.  Jesus showed us how to live and love in a heavenly and perfect way.  The depth of our capability is revealed, the way to the Father is shown.  The heavenly life of Jesus calls us to a new level of responsibility for ourselves and others.  It lifts our game and our sights.  It is not enough to settle for doing our earthly best.  We are challenged and ready to be heavenly.  As we travel to the light, we can be light for others.  As we prepare for perfect peace, we share the peace we have been given through the promise of eternal life.  And as we seek eternal life, we already possess the spirit of Christ.

For we “have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them.” It is not fear and trepidation we approach as we come to judgment.  No, we have approached “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect.”

What traveler sets out without knowing where they are heading?  This journey is not only our destiny, the destiny is our journey.  What a promise!  What joy awaits us!  How can something so beautiful in the future not affect how we see ourselves and others right now?  If this is where what we are inheriting, how precious we must already be.  When we think of ourselves as made for heaven, the peace that is promised becomes our peace right now.  The light we will bask in can be shared with those who live in the darkness of despair.  The perfect justice of heaven will call us to a more just earth.

So let us be like Jesus with heaven on our minds.  And let us be good for heaven’s sake.