Sermon on Heaven
By Father Kyle
At the recommendation of a friend, I recently discovered online a YouTube video called “The Veil Removed.” Perhaps some of you have watched it. If you have not, you should. It is only about five minutes long, but it is a powerful video that tries to visually portray what actually happens during the Sacrifice of the Mass. The video takes place in a beautiful cathedral, where the Mass is being offered, as a young man enters through the doors and takes a seat in a pew farther back in the church, a church with a lot of empty pews. As the man observes what is going on, he suddenly sees a troop of angels following the people bringing up the gifts to the priest, after which the angels take their place behind the priest at the altar. As the priest begins praying the words of institution, acting in the person of Christ, the Head, Shepherd, and Bridegroom of the Church, his appearance changes into that of Christ, and as He holds up the consecrated Host, you can see Christ on the cross above. One drop of His blood flowing down his body on the cross falls into the chalice, and as all this happens, you see heaven open, the Blessed Mother kneeling close to the altar in adoration, and the angels and saints above in glory, singing praise to her Son. Some of the people in the church, including the young man, see this, and as he sees this, he says, “My Lord and My God.” He is enraptured, with tears in his eyes, by what has been revealed to him in something that he may well have thought was boring and meaningless.
Two weeks ago, I began to preach on the “four last things” with a sermon on death. Last weekend, I preached a sermon on judgment, which will hopefully be made available to you soon on the parish website, and today, as we continue to draw closer to All Saints Day and All Souls Day, I will preach on heaven. And what better way is there for me to talk about this reality than to talk about the Mass, which as I often say in my preaching, is heaven on earth? This is not a metaphor; it is literal, and sadly, it is something that so many Catholics miss, not only our brethren who have fallen away from the Church, but also many of our brethren who come to the Mass every Sunday. Many people see the Mass as nothing more than a generic church service, equivalent to what they might attend in a Protestant community. Many people see the Mass as nothing more than an obligation, one of those many annoying rules that Catholics need to follow. Many people see the Mass as something to be checked off a list with other things to get done during the day, a burden to be carried among other more important matters and events, like shopping, getting laundry or yardwork done, or watching or playing sports. This is why there is great need for a Eucharistic Revival right now in the Church, and this is also part of why many people rarely give much thought to heaven and go through this life as slaves to the transitory things of this world.
Heaven, like the other last things and Purgatory, is largely misunderstood by many Catholics today, and many Christians in general. My brother priests and I, in the course of our sacred ministry, often hear people talk about it as if it really isn’t much different than this life on earth. For some, heaven is thought to be an eternal golf course or a bowling alley or some other place where they enjoy a beloved hobby. It is some place where they can continue to enjoy doing something or eating and drinking something that gives them pleasure. And in the words expressing this mentality, there is rarely much mention of God. But heaven is none of these things; it is so much more, so much greater, so great that it far surpasses everything we can sense or understand. “For as it is written, ‘eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has the human heart imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’” (1 Corinthians 2:9) The Catechism tells us, “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called ‘heaven.’” (CCC 1024) The Catechism goes on to cite St. Cyprian, “How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God…to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends.” (CCC 1028)
Life in heaven is free from temptation, sin, and doubt, free from sorrow, pain, and loss, and free from everything that obscures and deceives. Again, we can go back to the Catechism, which says further, “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” (CCC 1024) But we must understand that all of this revolves around God, around the unceasing worship and praise of Him by all the angels and saints – what we would call the Heavenly Liturgy, to which we are mysteriously united in the Sacred Liturgy here on earth. So, if you do not care much for the Mass, then you will not care much for heaven. If you are not living in and for Jesus Christ now, then seeing Him face to face and being with Him for all eternity would be for you more of a torture than an incomparable blessing.
As we celebrate World Mission Sunday, we must remember that heaven is the ultimate goal to which all the Church’s missionary work is directed. As we continue to celebrate Respect Life Month, we must remember that all human life, from conception to natural death, is destined for it. And as we celebrate these Sacred Mysteries, we must remember that our hope is to be forever caught up in the glorification of God on the other side of the veil. Heaven is for those who love the Lord and one another. It is for those who truly desire it, for those who live for it here and now. May our desire grow each day for this eternal and perfect communion with God and all the angels and saints. May our worthy feasting on the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar bring us to share in the heavenly banquet, where we hope to enjoy the fullness of His glory with all the faithful, who are truly present with us now beyond our sight.