The kingdom of heaven
We often think of heaven or of the kingdom of God as so inaccessible here on earth that we think it only exists in our dreams, in our fantasies or in our desires. It cannot be here and now.
And because of that, we often fail to consider it in our thoughts, words and deeds when in fact it is a very important and indispensable parameter in the way we live our life here on earth.
Truth to tell, heaven is and should be a constant element to consider so we would know if we are still doing right, if we are still on the right track. We should never ignore heaven in any way, because that is the final destination for all of us.
Yet in all the supposed ineffableness of heaven, Christ described it in very down-to-earth terms. In Chapter 13 of the Gospel of St. Matthew, we are given a series of parables that Christ said to describe the kingdom of heaven.
In these parables, Christ compared the kingdom of heaven:
- with the man sowing seeds on different kinds of ground;
- with the man who sowed good seeds of wheat only for his enemy to sow weeds also;
- with the mustard seed that is small and yet grows into a big tree;
- with a leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour till it was all leavened;
- with a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field;
- with a merchant in search of fine pearls and finding one of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it;
- with a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels, but threw away the bad.
Hardly anything can be more down-to-earth, matter-of-fact, realistic and practical than these descriptions of heaven. And the lessons they impart are actually simple. They are no rocket-science lessons, though we have to admit that to live these lessons we need nothing less than God’s grace and our all-out effort.
We have to overcome our tendency to think of heaven as unobtainable. It is not far from us. It is, in fact, in us already. Christ said so. When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered: “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Lk 17,20-21)
Every time we follow Christ, every time we do good things out of love for God, we are establishing and already living in the kingdom of God. Of course, the definitive kingdom will take place after our death when we truly become God’s image and likeness as he wants us to be.
But for as long as we try to follow and identify ourselves with Christ here on earth, we are already living in the kingdom of God. The elements of heaven would already be with us, though the fullness of heaven is yet to come.
Of course, the seeds of the kingdom here on earth would include some suffering, the need for patience, for faith, hope and charity. The seeds of the kingdom would include our effort for our personal sanctification with its inseparable duty to do apostolate, to continue the redeeming work of Christ.
The bliss and the indescribable joy associated with heaven can only take place after our death when we truly become one with Christ. But while we are still a work in progress in the hands of God here on earth, we have to expect some suffering and ultimately death. But we are assured of the resurrection.*
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