Have you ever seen a place on TV or in pictures and thought to yourself about how much fun it would be to go there? It could be an amusement park, a famous landmark, a historical building, or even a new country. If you did end up going there, chances are, it didn’t match up with your expectations. It was probably either better than you thought it would be, or not quite as good as you imagined. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a place that could forever infinitely surpass our wildest expectations? There is: Heaven.
Recently on The Inner Life, Josh Raymond welcomed back Father Joe Freedy to talk about The Last Things, the final entities that will be left after the end of the world: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. How should we think about Heaven? Should we fear Hell or not worry about it? Father Joe had the answers.
Father Joe and Josh began by discussing the magnitude and dimension of Heaven, something that we are just unable to comprehend. Our language is so limited in the conveyance of ideas and meaning that it’s impossible to fully describe the afterlife. Not only that, but our knowledge is severely limited, so even if we had the words, they wouldn’t quite help. Father Joe likened our transition from earth to heaven like transitioning from a triangle to a pyramid. There are other dimensions in play that we cannot consider because of our finite minds.
Essentially, it doesn’t pay to set any types of expectations for ourselves because it will be unlike anything we’ve ever experienced or even thought of. We should enter our encounter with the afterlife the same way we go about our encounters with Jesus. Father Joe said that it’s important that we encounter Christ in the Gospels as He is, not as we want Him to be nor as we’ve been taught falsely about Him.
There’s a popular Evangelical notion that it is not hard to get into Heaven and that everybody except for the really bad people, like Hitler, will get in. Josh said he’s heard this idea on multiple occasions where people believe that when they die, they’ll be able to sit down with God to chat and if they decide the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds, they’ll be all set. They think that judgment after death is simply a matter of helping God see things their way and he’ll eventually let it go. It’s not that easy. Jesus didn’t sacrifice Himself, rise from the dead, and establish the Church and its sacraments so that we could ignore them.
Though it may not look like it, we are engaged in an ongoing battle for our own soul. God and His angels want us in Heaven, but Lucifer and his demons want us in Hell. Just as a man gets down on his knee to propose to a woman, God is asking us to follow Him, but He will not force us. He didn’t give us free will as a gimmick. Father said, “God will neither cast us into Hell nor drag us into Heaven. He will simply render to us what we have chosen in our lifetimes.”
It’s important that we don’t misconstrue this idea, though. We are not so important that God is begging us for our discipleship, and we have power over his satisfaction. He cares about our eternity because He loves us infinitely and unconditionally. God has blessed us with the opportunity to follow Him into paradise, but it is up to us whether we take advantage. If you think about judgment day and where you think you’ll end up, that can often be a good indicator of the state of your soul and spiritual life. Are you fearful and paranoid for the end of your life? Or are you at peace, secure in your state of grace? We would all hope that we feel good about entering Our Lord’s presence.
Josh then turned the conversation to the way we see Heaven portrayed in art and other imagery, often with clouds and golden harps surrounded by angels. This doesn’t sound like the way St. John describes it in the Book of Revelations. Father pointed us back to the fact that our imagination, senses, and language are limited so we don’t know exactly what it will be like. He said, “So often, Christ describes it – as you’re describing also the Book of Revelations – a ‘Wedding Banquet and a Heavenly Liturgy.’”
There were times in Father Joe’s life when things were going so well that he couldn’t imagine Heaven being any better than this. He thought Heaven must be so boring compared to the goodness on earth. What are we going to do up there for eternity? But then Father heard a priest he knew describe Heaven as a quenching of a thirst, a sating of our hunger. It is the ultimate need that we cannot even comprehend fulfilling, but Heaven will satisfy it.
Heaven is not merely an avoidance of damnation, but it is an entrance into unthinkable fulfillment. We are granted full knowledge of Our Lord and all His mysteries, unbreakable peace, and eternal rest in His loving embrace.
In the spirit of contemplating the afterlife and the faithful departed, make sure to go to relevantradio.com/souls to submit the names of your deceased loved ones. From November 2-10, we will be remembering the submissions of our listeners and praying for them at every Daily Mass at Noon CT, Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3pm CT, and Family Rosary Across America. As you pray, we pray with you.
Listen to the full talk below:
Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT