Tag Archives: heaven

Morning Thoughts: Home Sick

.

I wonder. Did God ever catch a cold?

Did Mary look at Him while He slept, watching carefully His chest rise and fall?

Did Joseph pace around their small home, looking upward, his right hand touching his brow?

I wonder. Did they wince in sync when Jesus coughed from the bottom of His soul?

Was there a day, a single hour, from the moment Jesus was conceived that Joseph and Mary weren’t concerned?

Concerning all this there’s not much to wonder.

Jesus is human.

Of course He experienced “cold” in all its forms.

Of course Joseph and Mary felt they’d rather die than see their child in pain.

And Jesus is divine.

Of course He was homesick.

Of course He longed to return.

Between Mary’s womb and heaven the desert is awfully dry.

He climbed up high, seeking out mountain views.

He returned to the sea, seeking out salt air.

He stopped to hang out with the little ones, seeking out angels.

Jesus is just like you and me.

Only He allows Himself to be loved.

And that led Him to love to the utter extreme.

All flowed from and toward a family reunion.

His pain, His grief, His hope, His love were perfectly ordered.

Even when He coughed or sneezed or tossed and turned, Jesus did so while in the company of a promise.

And He’s extremely contagious.

Joseph and Mary became homesick too.

There’s only one place they could want to be.

With their only child.

Clinging to Him, to their God with all their might.


.

—Howard Hain

.

Friday Thoughts: Heaven Touching Earth

louis-cretey-the-vision-of-saint-bruno-late-17th-century

.

The sound of heaven touching earth is silence.

For silence is the absence of interruption.

And in heaven there is continual praise. A constant, perpetual, ceaseless, indescribable continuation of everything good. There is no interruption of absolute goodness. No interruption of peace or prayer, no interruption of joy or love.

In heaven, then, the eternal roar may perhaps be so inadequately described as an incomprehensible silence—a silence that blissfully deafens.

Deafens us to any pain or fear.

Deafens us to even the thought, the idea, or the conception that there could be any pain or fear.

So then when heaven touches earth, does not that same awesome eternal silence also reign here too, as it does in heaven?

Silence reigns.


.

—Howard Hain

.

(image: Louis Cretey, “The Vision of Saint Bruno”, late 17th century)

Morning Thoughts: Looking Up

El_Greco,_The_Vision_of_Saint_John_(ca 1609-1614).jpg

El Greco, “The Vision of Saint John”, (ca. 1609-14)


.

The LORD bless you and keep you!

The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!

—Numbers 6:24-26


.

Look up from your keyboard. Look up from your desk. Look up from your kitchen table. Lift your chin. Raise your eyes toward Heaven. Literally, look up.

Align your face to the beam of light that descends upon you. An individual beam of light comes your way. It is just like the beams in heavenly paintings. White. Bright. Clearly separate from the other beams beaming downward. The beam that shines on you is as real as the beams that shone upon all the great saints. For what made them great was a real individual beam of light shinning upon each and every one of them.

God loves you. He watches you. He listens to you. He willed you into existence, and He continues to do so, right up to this very moment. If you are reading this, if you are hearing this, if you are thinking about this, if you are alive at this very moment in any form whatsoever, it is because God is willing it to be so. And it is not an indifferent willing. It is not a willing that comes and goes. It is caring and constant, it is love and more love.

———

Those of you who are old enough—who were around well before the digital age firmly took over—I’m sure you remember what it was like to go to a small movie house to see a true motion-picture film. The kind that was projected overhead and landed upon a big white screen. We heard that distinct clicking sound that accompanied us the entire time the movie played, and we saw above us—especially if we took our eyes off the attraction on the screen and looked slightly backward and upward—a beam of light that pierced the darkness all around us. And in that beam of light we saw small particles, small white specks dancing within the illuminated beam.

We knew that they were just bits of dust. Bits of dust not brought to life by the light, but instead brought out of hiding by virtue of the light. But to a child beneath that projected image, whether that child was six or seventy-six, they were much more than bits of dust. They were evidence. Evidence that something was going on, that something special was happening. Something magical. Something we didn’t have to understand. Something that no matter how much we understood the science of motion pictures still compelled us to go along for the ride. We simply, with childlike faith, chose to believe in the result landing upon the big white screen on the not-too-distant horizon—so “not-too-distant” that it all seemed within arm’s reach.

Those bits of dust, those imperfections—that under a different light would have gone completely unnoticed, been ignored, been wiped away, or sucked up into a vacuum—under these charmingly cinematic circumstances became an integral part of a wonderful life.

They might as well have been pixie dust.

———

Look up then. Look up and align your face to the great beam of light shinning down upon you. God’s love is constantly, unrelentingly being projected toward you. In fact, God’s love is what is projecting you into existence. If He stopped thinking about you, if He stopped loving you, for even a moment, the light that is your blessed existence would go out—the motion picture of your life would come to an abrupt end.

But He doesn’t stop. God never stops. And even when our earthly existence does fade to black, God’s light continues to shine upon us, upon our souls, if we accepted His invitation while here on earth. We just need to decide, to decide now, while here in body and soul, whether or not we want to take part in the greatest motion picture that could ever be: The feature film that never ends and is always—each and every scene, “beginning” to “end”—a happy ending without worldly comparison.

———

There are other options of course:

We could end up being stuck inside a very dark theater with no hope of another show ever being shown again. With absolutely no way out. We might be tempted to call such a place “hell”.

Or:

We could end up being stuck inside a very dark theater with no show currently being shown, and no idea when one will be shown—but still with the hope that eventually one will come—but then again, we’d also be painfully aware that it could be a really long time, a really long agonizing wait. We might say that that sounds a lot like “purgatory”.

Heaven, on the other hand, who knows? No one can say for sure how wonderful it is, unless he or she has already been there. All we know is that it is infinitely better than our wildest dreams. And all we can do while we wait is imagine.

———

I don’t know about you, but the thought of one of those old silent films—where at the end, a couple madly in love heads off hand-in-hand toward a bright horizon—makes me smile.

It may seem silly, but perhaps going to Heaven is something like that. Perhaps the light that passed overhead our entire time here on earth—turning bits of dust into miraculous signs—becomes the film itself, pulling us into the screen, projecting us into the joyous end of what is now a wonderfully silent movie—transforming what was once only make-believe into something abundantly and eternally real.

———

Look up. Choosing such an ending begins with becoming holy.

Yes, it is possible. No matter how bad we are it truly is possible, by God’s grace.

For holiness is not reserved for the chosen, privileged few. No, holiness is what makes common folks reserved and privileged.

And holiness begins by staring into what is already there: The light of God’s love projected upon us.

Look up.               Look inward.               Pray.


.

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.”

—1 Corinthians 2:9


.

—Howard Hain

.

Friday Thoughts: A Major Mary

William-Adolphe Bouguereau Song of the Angels 1881

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, “Song of the Angels”, 1881 (detail)


 

…like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk

so that through it you may grow into salvation…

—1 Peter 2:2


.

A woman’s worth is measured by the love she bears for the Child Jesus residing within the person nearest to her.

She is priceless who beholds Jesus in each and every child—who sees all humanity as a child.

For the Mother of God holds each and every human being as if each and every one of us is the Son of God.

May we all see that woman in our life.

And may we all encourage every woman we encounter to nurture this divine gift—a gift held within the immaculate core of each and every instance of Mary’s Immaculate Heart:

The dignity of being God’s beloved daughter.

———

Just yesterday morning, I saw such a woman in the bakery. She told me of her own mother’s recent death. She spoke so lovingly, so faithfully. Her face was aglow. I felt such joy, such happiness, such hope in the promise of eternal life.

She handed me a prayer card from the funeral parlor. And there atop the rear side of the card—on the corresponding back chamber of the image of Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart gracing the front—I saw the face of a small delicate woman. A ninety-two-year-old beautiful little girl.

A recent photograph, I was told. And yet, it was ageless:

Holy Simplicity.

The Wisdom of God.

The “uneducated” schooled in the school of the divine.

———

She told me how blessed she was to be able to see her mother before she passed away. She traveled from New Jersey out to California to be with her. She said there was so much love, the presence of family, so much peace. The grace of a peaceful death. But then my friend showed a moment of remorse. She was not there at the exact moment of her mother’s death. She was already on a plane heading back to New Jersey when her dear mother departed for our one shared eternal home.

I thought of the Cross. The shape written in the sky. The plane speeding across a blue sea of crisp unpolluted air, leaving in its wake a white horizontal beam—while her mother’s soul ascends up toward heaven, slicing through her daughter’s path and adding to the celestial landscape—the vertical post of Christ’s Sacred Sign.

Life and death. Birth and rebirth. Time and eternity. The crisscrossing of two worlds, one temporary and fleeting, the other permanent and eternal.

The Kingdom is at hand, it begins right here, it resides within you and me—and if we have any doubt, all we need to do is stare a little more at Jesus stretched out upon the Cross—where we also find His beautiful, faithful mother standing by His blessed feet.

Faith and hope. Love and more love.

My friend’s remorse was short and fleeting. Together we raised our eyes back up toward Christ.

We let the Christ in each of us seek once more the face of the Father.

More peace and joy than even before. It seemed as if we’d both begin to sing. We hugged instead. A full chorus in heaven accompanied us.


.

…I have stilled my soul…

Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.

—Psalm 131:2


.

—Howard Hain

.

Friday Thoughts: A Room Full of Toys

An Old Man and his Grandson ca 1490 by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Domenico Ghirlandaio, “An Old Man and his Grandson”, ca. 1490

 


.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.

—John 14:1


.

awoken by the night

the good father makes his rounds

peeking into rooms to make sure all is where it should be

a silent prayer

a midnight blessing

a distant siren

a room full of toys

a smile

a memory

giving life to his own father’s watchfulness many years before

the needy cat cries

he better attend to her needs

before she awakes the rest of the house

but before returning to bed

he’ll lovingly recall

once more

a great promise

a great hope

a room full of toys

.


.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

—John 14:2


.

—Howard Hain

.

The Ascension of Our Lord

audio homily here:
In a Barnes and Noble Bookstore awhile ago, in the religion section, I noticed a good number of books on heaven. Most of these, as far as I could judge, are accounts of people who say they’ve been there or just about, and are reporting on their experience. Looks like heaven is an item of some interest today.

The Feast of the Ascension is our basic book on heaven. Jesus promises us a home there. The Ascension is part of the Easter mystery. On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead and for forty days, scripture say, he ate and drank and met with his disciples to build up their faith. Then, he ascended into heaven.

Rising from the dead was not the end of his story. He rose from the dead but did continue life on earth as before. He didn’t rise like those whom he raised from the dead, like Lazarus whom he called from the tomb, like the little girl and the dead son of a widow of Naim. They went back to ordinary life. Jesus did not.

No, after he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, our creed says. He entered another world beyond this one, a world greater than this one. There, from a place of great power, he extends his promise and power to us here on earth.

When I was a boy, I remember my father buying a record player. It was the mid 1940’s and times were hard; I’m sure he broke the family bank to pay for it. For a good while he only had a couple of those old vinyl records he would play over and over.

One of them was a haunting black spiritual sung by Marian Anderson called “Heaven.”
“I got shoes, and you got shoes, all God’s children got shoes.
When I getta heaven gonna put on my shoes
and gonna walk all over God’s heaven, heaven.
Everybody’s talking bout Heaven ain’t goin’ there.
heaven, heaven. Gonna walk all over God’s heaven.”

I still remember the hope in that great singer’s voice and in the song she sang. She was singing the song of barefooted slaves who were looking for something more. It wasn’t just a pair of shoes that would wear out after awhile. These were shoes God gave you in heaven, a place of completed dreams. Once you put on those shoes you could walk freely and walk everywhere.

The Feast of the Ascension points to heaven as our final home, where all our dreams are realized, where tears are wiped away, where sadness is no more, where wrongs are righted, where reunion with those we love takes place, where we enjoy the presence of God and all the saints.

For now, we only have hints of heaven. We only have assurances of faith. And it’s not enough, as the spiritual says, just to talk about it, we must walk in the steps of Jesus. Walking in his steps brings us, not to a grave, but to the place where he is. That’s heaven.

I wonder why our first reading stops where it does, because the next line says that the disciples walked back to Jerusalem, to the place where they were living. “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying.”

Before we walk in heaven, we have to keep walking on earth.

Walk’in All Over God’s Heaven

Jesus did not just come out of the tomb; he ascended to heaven. He rose from the dead and disappeared from our sight to return to his Father and our Father, his God and our God. The mystery of his ascension completes the Paschal Mystery. In his victory over death we’re promised a life beyond this one.

When I was a boy, I remember my father buying a record player. It was the mid 1940’s and times were hard; I’m sure he broke the family bank to pay for it. For a good while he only had a couple of those old vinyl records he would play over and over.

One of them was a haunting black spiritual sung by Marian Anderson called “Heaven.”

“I got shoes, and you got shoes, all God’s children got shoes.

When I getta heaven gonna put on my shoes

and gonna walk all over God’s heaven, heaven.

Everybody’s talking bout Heaven ain’t goin’ there.

heaven, heaven.  Gonna walk all over God’s heaven.”

I still feel the hope in that great singer’s voice as she sang that song. She was singing the song of barefooted slaves who were looking for something more. It wasn’t just a pair of shoes that would wear out after awhile. These were shoes God gave you in heaven, a place of completed dreams. Once you put on those shoes you could walk freely and walk everywhere.

The Feast of the Ascension describe heaven as our final home, where all our dreams are realized, where tears are wiped away, where sadness is no more, where wrongs are righted, where reunion with those we love takes place, where we enjoy the presence of God and all the saints.

For now, we only have hints of heaven. We only have assurances of faith. However, it’s not enough to just talk about it, as the spiritual says, we must walk in the steps of Jesus. Walking in his steps brings us, not to a grave, but to the place where he is. That’s heaven.