Thursday, November 1, 2007

What is Heaven?


"There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else." ~ C.S. Lewis


So what is Heaven? We talk about it all the time when faced with the reality of our own mortality or when referencing the memory of the dearly departed.

We have built Churches and amassed tremendous inculcated congregations with messages and moral exhortations about "the way" that leads us there. Theologians assert that every human being has a ontological desire for God and Heaven. Most people who adhere to some theistic belief live with the hopeful expectation that someday the ephemeral joy and decaying matter of this world will be replaced with an unshakable, everlasting Utopian setting. Yet, has any of us ever been there and returned to share his or her experience? Has any living human being ever communicated with someone in Heaven and spoken to them about the experience of living there or what the place looked like? In Catholicism the term Heaven describes the glorious "abode of the blessed", where time is absent and the just will see God directly. I find it both interesting and terrifying that so many of us have placed our hopes on something we know so little about outside tradition and personal expectations.

We could be likes of John Dominic Crossan, a former priest who maintained ties to Catholic higher education after leaving the pastorate, and acknowledge the existence of God but rebuff the existence of this "whimsical" proposition of Heaven. Believe in God, but not in an afterlife. Is this not an oxymoron?

Again I ask, what is Heaven? How do you know?

Tom

7 comments:

Adrienne said...

John Dominic Crossan would never even make it on to my top ten list of folks to read. For one thing, he thinks Jesus was eaten by dogs so I wouldn't be too interested in his views of heaven.

Heaven for me, tom, falls under that wonderful "it's a matter of faith." I just hope my dogs and cats are there with me:)

Sister Mary Martha said they wouldn't because animals don't have souls but, she forgets - God can do anything He wants --- so there!

Catherine said...

I've always loved that quote by CSL. It seems so true, but our imaginations are so limited.

I hosted an interesting conversation about Heaven vs. Reincarnation, if you're interested...
http://catherinemcniel.blogspot.com/2007/10/too-vast-to-be-called-by-name.html

Catherine said...

Oops,
here

Tom in Vegas said...

Adrienne-

I agree with your comments in reference to J.D. Crossan. Dr.William Loewe of Catholic University once wrote telling me that although Crossan was a brilliant scholar, there were times when "he was just plain wrong."

I disagree with Sister Mary's conclusion about animals. I don't know if you have ever heard of Brian Swimme. He is a Catholic cosmologist and once spoke something quite profound during an interview. Referencing Aquinas, he said that while you and I reflect the image and likeness of God, we DO NOT reflect the fullness of God. All of creation mirrors much more of His creativity than just a single human being, or all of humanity combined. For me that means that not just us, but animals bare that spark of divinity given to them by the same Maker. Furthermore, I’ve been trying to find a quote I once read of Pope J.P. II in which he stated that animals “do have a soul of their own.”

Now look what you made me do. I gave you a response that is almost as long as the post that I wrote! LOL!

Tom

kris said...

Heaven to me is not a place. It is communion/union with God. And that kingdom (of heaven) is at hand, here, within each of us.

"MissMeliss" said...

My response...

I believe that wherever God is, that is Heaven.

And I love that quote by CS Lewis.

Peace.
Melissa

Faithful Catholic said...

Tom,

FAITH!