December 10-11, 2016

Friends, 

      It dawned on me recently that I very rarely mention the word “heaven.” I do believe in life after life, but for some reason I don’t use the word “heaven” when I am speaking about the next life. I know that most knowledgeable theologians and scientists would tell us that they no longer see the world as three-tiered (heaven, earth and hell). That understanding of the world they would tell us, is from an earlier age when we did not have the knowledge we have today, theologically or scientifically. So I look for greater insight into what the afterlife is all about. This is one of the simplest explanations I have for responding to the question: “What is heaven?” I believe that heaven is the living presence of God after I die. However, I am living in God’s presence now, so I guess it would be living in the presence of God in a different way than I am now. 
       I have often used the expression “We may not know what is beyond the grave, but we do know who.” I realize many well-meaning people in our lives in an attempt to describe the “next life” have done so with words and descriptions that can never come near the reality. Some of those “definitions” and “pictures” play a major role in our depiction of heaven. 
       I am always open to new understandings of how to articulate my beliefs and to be able to have intelligent conversations about what pertains to God, Christianity and the Catholic Church. 
       In a recent discussion group we had a very animated conversation about the concept of a “soul.” We heard responses from the Baltimore Catechism definition all the way up to and including the soul as the human spirit, our ability to relate with God, conscience, and even an understanding that it is the soul that contains the body, rather than the body containing the soul. 
      The soul and the afterlife seem to be in most peoples’ understanding of heaven. 
      I have to admit that I am much more concerned about my understanding of this life than I am about my standing in the next. I leave you with the following conversation I read between a mother and her 10 year old son: 
      “Do people look the same when they get to heaven?” 
      “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” 
      “Then how do people recognize each other?” 
      “I don’t know sweetie. They just feel it. You don’t need your eyes to love, right? You must feel it inside you. That’s how it is in heaven. It’s just love, and no one forgets who they love.” 
And that is good enough for me! 

Enjoy Life! 
Fr Coyne

 

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