A priest, in Bible and Life magazine, gives readers something to think about. He had just given the last Sacraments to a young man injured in a car accident, as he left the intensive care unit of the hospital a person, unknown to him, approached and said: "I hope there is a heaven." His brother was not expected to live very long after falling from a height at a construction site. The priest answered: "Yes, there has to be."
Yes, without heaven how does one understand all the unjust and horrible things that are experienced in society! If one doesn't have a decent life here on earth after death they will. As in Luke's Gospel (16:25) the poor beggar after death received his consolation.
However... despite these words, a part of him was not happy with what he said. Is it that we can go to heaven only after death? Is life on this earth only a place for training and testing for heaven? No matter how difficult, painful, unjust, or absurd we endure and wait for our reward in heaven?
Was this not the reason some of the kings and nobles liked Christianity? The teaching on equality of all was not always to their liking but life after death was a reason they could tolerate Christianity after all it gave hope to the poor.
True as this may be, it leaves the writer with a feeling that something is not right. Consequently, we have to make sure we understand Jesus's teaching on heaven. It was an important part of Jesus' mission on this earth— the kingdom of God—do we understand its meaning?
The kingdom of God is where God reigns. This reign of God is to begin here on this earth. The kingdom of God and life on this earth are not separated. The reign of God is present and will continue forever. The kingdom of God is already here with us now but not yet complete. It continues to grow from its small beginnings. It begins with my life here on earth.
We are not waiting to enter heaven but are in God's kingdom here on this earth. Put in other words heaven is not a place but a state. The words used may lead one to think of heaven as a place but here on earth when we begin living with love, oneness, justice, fairness, vitality, peace, etc. Jesus reigns. Look at the world we live in! It's a world full of things that would fit in hell. But where in this world do we find heaven? Of course, I have no choice but to think of the other world, not this world.
Thinking of heaven as a place is not only awkward. To have the unjust dream of heaven who has made this world hell is that right? Is it possible to live the heavenly life with a heart full of evil? When hearts are doing what God wants us to do, God's reign is working within us we are building God's kingdom and cultivating his kingdom here on earth. Am I not
building the kingdom of God now?
When the wings of a bird are broken, heaven does not disappear. Lift up your head and continue longing for heaven. Thus, the kingdom of heaven exists in the lives of those who yearn and seek it. The martyrs lived that life. They did not die and entered the kingdom of heaven, but people who already lived in heaven. Let's remember the words of the Lord: "Behold, the kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:21).