Tag Archives: heaven

Joyful Communion

3 Nov

Image result for faults shape up spouseThis Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that our ultimate destiny is heaven. We married couples may hear this message and wrongly assume our mission is to point out our spouse’s faults and “shape them up.” We may also think our spouse’s irritating qualities are chiseling away our imperfections. As common as these two viewpoints are, they paint a miserable picture of marriage.

We forget that heaven is joyful communion with God. What if, instead of dragging each other along, we supported each other by encouraging virtue? What if, instead of focusing on our spouse’s faults, we focused on convincing them that we love them unconditionally? What if we lived the marriage we always dreamed we would? What if we could prepare our spouse for heaven by practicing joyful communion here on earth?

If you desire such “joyful communion,” but you want a practical plan, check out Archbishop Naumann’s Joyful Marriage Project at www.joyfulmarriageproject.com.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

 

Why We Care About Marriage (Part 4)

2 Sep

winding road CCHeaven!

It is what we all desire in the depths of our existence. Every longing we experience finds its fulfillment in heaven. Every joy in this life is but a sign of what is to come in eternity. When a joy we experience passes away, we’re reminded that we’re not yet in heaven, where our joy will never end.

Imagine going to a party and not having to leave at the end, but being able to stay at the party with all of your closest friends and family. This is kind of what heaven will be like, except we tend to interpret heaven from our own limited human experience. We think that if heaven is some sort of party that never ends, then eventually we will get bored.

Heaven is not quite like that; it is not an endless succession of days where we have to find something to do. It is more like a fixed moment of joy that is locked into our very existence–for in heaven, there is no time.

Believe it or not, one of the greatest insights we can gain into this eternal existence is by contemplating the mystery of marriage.

Married couples are a sign of God’s existence in heaven, as the Church is wedded to Christ for all of eternity. Heaven is depicted in Sacred Scripture as a wedding feast. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. God uses this analogy to help us understand the eternal joy we will experience in heaven.

Let’s face it, wedding receptions are joyous occasions, and He is trying to awaken us to this reality. The Lord is saying, “If you think weddings are fun on earth, wait until you get here!”  And that’s just the beginning.

Imagine a passionately loving couple who are approaching their wedding day. They simply cannot wait to give themselves as a gift to one another at the altar and also to consummate that relationship through the conjugal act.  The joy the couple experiences through the total self-donation of intercourse is intended to be a foretaste of the bliss of participating in the union of Christ and His Bride for all eternity. This may make us blush, but it is God who came up with this analogy to describe what our experience of joy will be like in heaven.

In the Catholic Tradition, we call heaven the “beatific vision.” This description helps us understand that we, the Bride of Christ, will see Christ, the Bridegroom, face to face for all of eternity in a loving, passionate stare. As we gaze in the vision of our Savior, we are filled with His love. His love penetrates us and fills us with His very life. Having received His life, we now have a worthy gift to return to Him, and so, having received, we can now give in return a pleasing gift.

Does that description of the beatific vision sound like anything that a husband and wife experience in their earthly marriage? It should. The marital embrace of husband and wife, where the husband gives his seed of life to his wife and she takes that seed into herself and offers it in return in the conception and bringing forth of new life, is the earthly window where we catch a glimpse of the eternal embrace of Christ and His Bride!

This is but a tiny glimpse of the beautiful vision of marriage that the Church holds out to her children. So, for us it is not a matter of debating whether to change the definition of marriage. We do not believe we have the power to change what we did not create. It is not for us to change; it is for us to understand and live.

Marriage is not an entity unto itself, but it represents the One who created it because He wanted to communicate the truth and beauty of His loving reality. Is it any wonder that as marriage has declined over the past several decades that we have also seen a rise in atheism? I believe they are connected. It makes sense that as we can no longer see the sign as clearly as we should, we cannot recognize what the sign points to. It is like trying to reach a destination without having the proper signs to guide the way. Can you imagine if you went on a road trip and did not have a map, or GPS, or any road signs to tell you if you were on the right path?  It may feel like an adventure at first, but it would soon turn into a frustrating ordeal. In this scenario, it would be surprising if we ever reach our destination.

I think that is what our culture is experiencing. Our society has set out on an excursion and has left all points of guidance behind. The culture thinks it is on an exciting experience of unbridled freedom and happiness, but it will eventually lead to frustration and despair. I am speaking about every form of deprivation of the truth and beauty of matrimony that I have mentioned in this series.

For us married couples, it is our duty to be the sign we are intended to be for the sake of others. When we do that, we will experience joy beyond belief, because we will be living our purpose in life, which is to lead others to Christ. I invite all married couples to intentionally focus on being the sign they are called to be in order to change the culture.  Living our mission as married couples is the most effective way to awaken our culture to the beauty of marriage. To paraphrase St. Catherine of Sienna, if we were who we were created to be, we would set the world on fire!

What is the Assumption?

15 Aug

AssumptionToday the Church celebrates the great solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s such a significant feast day that the Church considers it a holy day of obligation, on which we are obliged to go to Mass and, to the extent possible, enjoy a day a rest and festivity.

So it’s fair to ask, “What does the Church teach concerning the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary?”

The teaching is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 974:

“The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up [‘assumed’] body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His Body.” This is a paraphrase of a dogmatic statement issued in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in a document entitled Munificentissimus Deus.

While the dogmatic definition is relatively new, the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption is firmly rooted in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. The key scriptural verse is Genesis 3:15, in which the Lord says that He will put enmity between Satan and the “woman,” who is identified as the Mother of the Redeemer. “Enmity” means “total opposition.” This verse foreshadows Mary’s participation in the complete victory of her seed (Jesus) over Satan. According to St. Paul, the consequences of Satan’s influence on the human race are twofold: sin and death (e.g., Romans 5:21; 6:16; 6:23; 8:2; Galatians 6:7-8; Hebrews 2:14-15). Therefore, Mary, who shared in her Son’s victory over Satan, would have to be saved from both sin and the corruption of death. Thus, the Assumption manifests Our Lady’s “total opposition” to the devil.

In addition to Genesis 3:15, there are several other scriptural passages that point to the Assumption of Our Lady. For example, there is Luke 1:28, since her bodily assumption is a natural consequence of her being “full of grace.” Other passages include Revelation 12:1, in which Mary’s coronation implies her bodily assumption, and 1 Corinthians 15:23 and Matthew 27:52-53, which support the possibility of a bodily assumption. And lastly there is Psalm 132:8, which provides: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified.” Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, who physically bore the presence of God in her womb before bearing Christ to the world.

The Assumption is also witnessed by sacred Tradition. For example, St. Gregory of Tours (d. 593) wrote: “The Lord commanded the holy body [of Mary] to be borne on a cloud to Paradise where, reunited to its soul and exalting with the elect, it enjoys the everlasting bliss of eternity.” The doctrine was also explicitly taught by Church Fathers such as St. Germain of Constantinople, St. Andrew of Crete, and St. John Damascene.

There is a maxim that provides “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (“the law of praying is the law of believing”). This maxim summarizes the truth that the liturgical life of the People of God plays an important role in preserving and celebrating the Faith of the Church. Already in the sixth century there were liturgical feasts dedicated to Mary’s Assumption. And indeed, from the 13th century on, the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption was taught with near unanimity in both the west and east. And the Rosary, which includes the mystery of the Assumption, has been an important part of Catholic piety since the early 13th century.

In defining the Assumption as a revealed dogma, Pope Pius XII did not infallibly answer all the questions that relate to the “where, when, and how” of the Assumption. For example, we do not know how old Mary was and whom she was with at the time. Also, the Holy Father did not attempt to resolve the controversy as to whether she was in Ephesus or Jerusalem, as there was no mention of where she was at the time of her Assumption. In addition, Pope Pius XII’s definition said nothing about Mary’s mediation, her queenship, or other privileges.

And significantly, Pope Pius XII left open the question of whether Mary “died.” Note that the definition intentionally uses the ambiguous phraseology, “having completed the course of her earthly life.” Some maintain that she did not die, because her Immaculate Conception freed her from the effects of original sin, including death. The more probable opinion, endorsed by Blessed John Paul II, is that the Blessed Virgin Mary did die, so that she could be fully conformed to her crucified Son. Thus she freely accepted death in order to more fully associate herself with her Son’s redemption (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, no. 58). It is important to note in this regard that if Mary did die before being assumed into heaven, it did not involve the bodily corruption that usually accompanies death as a consequence of original sin.

The foregoing, in modified form, was originally published by Catholics United for the Faith.

I Wanna Know What Hope Is

14 Mar

faith hope loveThere was a popular song by the rock band Foreigner some years ago entitled, “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” I think the song title is reflective of the thirst we all have to know and experience true love, which can be so elusive in light of all the counterfeits that surround us.

While there are no hit songs about it, I think we also want to know what hope is. So many people go through the day without realizing that there is hope for them. Others have given way to despair or presumption (cf. Catechism, nos. 2091-92).

For those of us who want to know what hope is, we have the following passage from St. Paul (Phil. 3:12-14) as part of the second reading at Mass this Sunday. For my money, it is the most profound reflection on Christian hope found in all of Scripture:

It is not that I have already taken hold of it
or have already attained perfect maturity,
but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it,
since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, I for my part
do not consider myself to have taken possession.
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,
the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

St. Thomas teaches us that hope is oriented toward a future, difficult good. Let’s briefly look at that from the perspective of natural hope. Hope deals with the future, as it wouldn’t make sense to hope for something that has already happened. Hope deals with the difficult, or at least uncertain. I don’t hope that tomorrow is Friday, because there’s no reasonable chance (barring the Second Coming!) of tomorrow not being Friday. And hope pertains to the good, as we only hope for things that at least seem good to us.

Let’s take it up a notch, and see how this applies to the theological virtue of hope, which helps those of us who have not yet reached “the prize of God’s upward calling” (Phil. 3:14; cf. Catechism, nos. 1817-21). Our hope is ordered to the future. We have been reborn in Christ, but we still haven’t reached our eternal destination. Our hope pertains to the difficult, or uncertain (in fact, the humanly impossible–see Mt. 19:25-26). Now this one can be tricky, as we joyfully affirm that God is true to His promises. We can count on His gracious assistance. The difficulty or uncertainty comes into play because of human freedom. Even though God offers us heaven, we remain free to reject Him through unrepented mortal sin. We all must persevere through some spiritual battles before happily coming to the end of our earthly pilgrimage.

And finally our hope is ordered to our ultimate good, which eye has not seen and ear has not heard (1 Cor. 2:9).

So in these remaining days of Lent, as we embrace our new Holy Father Francis, let’s strain forward to what lies ahead, as we redouble our commitment to our beloved Savior.

What’s Happening Down There?

7 Aug

A recurring criticism of Catholic theology by other Christians is our belief in the communion of saints. More specifically, we believe that there is a spiritual bond uniting believers on earth, souls in purgatory, and the blessed in heaven. We believe that those who are “saved” and are now in the presence of God are aware of what’s happening on earth and in fact can be counted on to pray for us.

For that reason, I thought an article appearing last week at christianpost.com was pretty interesting. The article is about Protestant Evangelist Greg Laurie, who lost his son in an automobile accident four years ago. Since that time he has been reflecting on heaven as well as the virtue of hope. While he limited the scope of his inquiry to Scripture alone, he still came to the conclusion that people in heaven know what’s going on here on earth. Here’s an excerpt:

Pointing to scripture found in Revelation [and] Luke chapters 15 and 16, Laurie  explained that he believes that people in heaven have knowledge of what is  happening on earth.

“Let me take it a step further. I think people in heaven know a lot more  about earth than we may realize,” he said.

“People in eternity are aware of the fact that loved ones are not saved. This  is based on Luke 16 . . . In the afterlife we are the same person with real memories  of earth. You will know more in heaven than you will on earth, not less. We  don’t all get a collective lobotomy when we go to glory.”

A second point he made during the sermon is that when people come to believe  in Jesus it’s “public knowledge in heaven.”

“There is joy in heaven whenever one person repents,” he said. “Whenever  someone turns to God on earth they break out in applause in heaven.”

His third point about heaven is that people there know about the time and  place of events on earth as evidenced by passages in Revelation. . . .

Again, pointing to verses in the Bible, he added as a fourth point that there  will be a connection between those in heaven and those on earth. Those in heaven  will be aware of the spiritual status of their loved ones.

He doesn’t seem to be too far removed from a Catholic understanding of the communion of saints.

Laurie assures his listeners that heaven is not one long church service. He reminded of a quip I once heard from Dr. Peter Kreeft, who said in effect that hell is an eternal church service without God, while heaven is eternity with God without the church service.