Posted by: frroberts | November 21, 2017

How to get to heaven

The prophet Malachi declares, “for you who fear my name, [says the Lord] there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  In order receive the healing rays that Jesus Christ offers us, we have to fear God.  We might put it this way, those who fear the Lord will be lifted up to heaven. What in the world does that mean?

We can get the wrong idea about what the Bible means when it talks about the fear of God if we think that it means being scared of God as we would be scared of an enemy who wants to get even with us after we have crossed him.  No.  The fear of the Lord is something quite different.  What analogy could give us a sense of the fear we should have in our relationship with God?

Any analogy limps, but the following should be very helpful.

Those of us who are adults can probably remember what it was like to be fifteen.  What was the thing we most looked forward to doing when we turned sixteen?  Getting our drivers’ license.  Before we could get our license, however, there were some things that we had to learn about how to operate a motor vehicle.

Cars, we were told, are dangerous things if not used with proper care.  They can easily deliver enough force to kill their drivers and innocent bystanders.  As an adolescent, I knew personally two teenagers who died in separate car accidents within a year of getting their licenses.  The young men who died were not especially irresponsible.  They were simply inexperienced drivers who became too relaxed when facing difficult driving conditions.

In learning to drive we had to develop a healthy fear of what the car we were driving was capable of doing if we used it improperly or in dangerous conditions.  At first it seemed like driving was so complicated that we would never learn how to do it.  But with time, practice and a serious recognition of all the things that could go wrong, driving began to become second nature.  There were times when we drove in more challenging situations when we had to be more careful.  The first time I drove a car in New York City when I was in nineteen I was reminded that fear can be a thing that focuses concentration and makes new things that are very difficult possible.

The fear of the Lord is sort of like the healthy fear of what a car can do that successful drivers have to develop.  Experienced drivers who own a car and maintain it will also know the importance of routine maintenance like checking the tread and air pressure on tires, the brake pads, the windshield wipers and wiper fluid as well as changing the oil regularly for safe driving.

Fear of the Lord means realizing that our relationship with God is such an important thing that we should take it seriously and should be very careful about it.  In fact, our happiness for all eternity depends on having a good relationship with God.  We have to learn how to do the right things at the right time and in the right way so that relating with God becomes second nature.  Trying to make things up as we go along according to what feels right without knowing and understanding what Christ’s Church teaches will work as well as trying to weave in and out of traffic during rush hour in New York City without having a clear plan to get where we want to go.

Neglecting daily prayer, weekly Mass and monthly confession and only doing them when we “have time” or “feel like it” will work as well as doing routine maintenance on our cars only when we have nothing else to do.  My ex-brother in law tried that strategy and he ended up going nearly 30,000 miles without an oil change!  Fixing things then was much harder and more expensive than making the time to change the oil would have been before the car’s engine went out.

Our Lord says, “by your perseverance you will secure your souls.”   There will be trials and difficulties in the Christian life.  If we are really trying to follow Jesus, we will be persecuted, even within our own parish and family, but we should not let those things discourage us.  If we persevere in the life of grace, we will not fall away from being friends of God.  We will know peace in this life.  And in the next we will know the happiness of being embraced by Jesus’ loving arms for all eternity.

How do we persevere in the life of grace?  There are four points that bear repeating:

1. Daily prayer.  For a busy priest like me, daily prayer means setting aside three hours a day on weekdays and over four hours a day on weekends to be with Lord.  For a lay person daily prayer should mean at least thirty minutes every day and on Sunday an hour and half.

2. Regular study of Christian doctrine.  Many of us know more about Miley Cyrus or Tony Romo than we do about what Christ’s Holy Catholic Church teaches about what it means to be a Christian.  If reading books is too much like school, there are always the podcasts of our weekly RCIA class on my blog.  No matter how we do it, a week should not go by that we do not spend time learning more about our faith.

3. Weekly Mass attendance.  None of us would think about driving on a flat tire.  But that is precisely what we do when we skip Mass on Sundays and try to be followers of Jesus.

4. Monthly celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation with a priest.  Remember what I said about my ex-brother in law and neglecting to change the oil? The results of not changing our spiritual oil regularly are even more ugly.

Heaven is our great hope.  As Saint Paul wrote, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love Him.”  In heaven we will know the healing of our deepest wounds and joy without end.  But we cannot expect to get their if we give more attention to keeping our finances, our physical health, our home and our car in good order than we give to monitoring the state our souls and the health of our relationship with Almighty God.


Responses

  1. Father — Fr. Bob Warren of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement wrote a fun piece on how all mothers are guaranteed heaven because the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are built into family life. Here’s how he put it: “The 2 a.m. bottle?” Giving drink to the thirsty. “Changing diapers?” Clothing the naked. “Preparing meals.” Feeding the hungry. “The cat died.” Burying the dead. “Are you still in the bathroom?” Visiting the imprisoned. “Mom, what should I wear?” Counseling the doubtful. And “Mom, will you help me with my homework?” Instructing the ignorant.

    I love it! :)

    Like


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