In the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus calls over a child and tells them that unless they become like children they will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Then he says, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” But if Jesus is referring to the greatest in the kingdom does that mean there actually are different levels of heaven? And if we are the least in the kingdom of heaven, does that mean we will experience less happiness than the greatest?
Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick discussed this topic, and explained how our holiness on earth affects our happiness in heaven. He began by pointing to John 10:10 when Jesus said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Patrick explained, “Jesus doesn’t do anything by half-measures, he gives us the fullness. The question, however, is to what extent do you have the capacity to receive that?”
An analogy Patrick used to illustrate his point is the fact that athletes are able to increase their lung capacity (the amount of air they are able to take into their lungs) as they grow in their ability to do aerobic exercise. Because of this, the lung capacity of an athlete is typically greater than that of a person who lives a sedentary life.
In a similar way, the capacity of the soul to receive God’s grace is enlarged as the person grows in holiness. Because of this, a person who is continually growing in holiness will have a greater capacity to receive God’s grace than one who does not have a relationship with the Lord.
“Imagine if your cooperation with God’s grace, and your love for the Lord and the things he asked you to do enabled you to have the capacity of a big swimming pool,” Patrick said. “And the water that would fill up to the brim is how much capacity you have.”
“So let’s say your capacity is the equivalent of a swimming pool. That’s a lot of water. The Blessed Virgin Mary, by comparison, might have the capacity the size of the Pacific Ocean. The guy down the street who just squeaked into heaven by God’s grace may have the capacity of a Dixie cup.”
But one’s ability to receive God’s grace does not mean that you will be in any way lacking in happiness based on your personal capacity to receive.
“Whether it’s a Dixie cup, a backyard swimming pool, or the Pacific Ocean, each person in heaven will be maxed out with happiness, maxed out with the Beatific Vision,” Patrick said. “You won’t be lacking anything. You will have the maximum amount that you can possibly contain in you, in terms of your capacity when you see God face to face.”
Some people, because of God’s grace and their cooperation with that grace, will have a much greater capacity than you. And maybe you will have a greater capacity than others. That, Patrick said, is ultimately up to God.
“You may be happier in that you will be able to experience God more fully,” he said. “You know how God refers to ‘the least in the kingdom of heaven?’ They’re still there, but you have those who will receive far more honor, far more glory in heaven. But every single person in heaven, including the very lowliest person in heaven, even that person will be maxed out in happiness. As will you, as will the Blessed Virgin Mary, all the saints, and everybody in between.”
But the question you may be wondering is whether these differences in honor, prominence, and capacity for grace will lead to jealousy, envy, and discontent. If it turns out the kid who bullied you in high school has a swimming pool of grace and you have a Dixie cup, won’t that affect your happiness?
Patrick answered this by saying, “You’re going to be rejoicing. That’s gonna make your happiness all the more intense, to see the bounty of blessings that God gives to all of his friends in heaven. So you won’t feel jealous, you won’t feel envious. You’ll be rejoicing. You’ll be so happy for everybody, and everybody will be so happy for you. We’ll all be happy.”
Listen to the full conversation below: