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Heaven: The Reason for Hope

If we are ever disappointed or dissatisfied, especially with ourselves, such experiences could actually be good news if we can realize that ultimate satisfaction cannot be found on this earth or in this life. Ultimate satisfaction is rather something to hope and pray for. Our true home is heaven, since we are made with a longing that nothing on earth can satisfy. Even if we have all our wishes and desires fulfilled and met, sadly all things will come to an end in this life. 

The alternative is not to detach ourselves and close ourselves from the possibility of loving in order to avoid suffering, as we might be tempted to do when we grieve the loss of someone we loved. Rather, Augustinian spirituality invites us to love in God. To love in God means to love everything who/that is not God with grateful hearts, while reserving the fullness of all our heart, soul and strength of loving for God alone. We can also pray that by loving the people and things God has given us we may be purified of selfishness and all kinds of desires to possess or control. Loving all things in God means to also love as God loves: with justice, mercy, generosity, and responsibility. Loving like God loves allows others to accept our love. If we love everyone while following God’s commandments, we can know we are loving rightly, since in Him and through Him we have the fullness of life, which we can only hope to have fully in the next life. 

St Augustine prays at the beginning of the Confessions with one of the most famous lines: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (Confessions I.1). Jesus also prays to his Father for us along the similar theme: that we live in the world but that we do not belong to the world  (John 17:11, 14–15). How blessed are we, when we accept that indeed nothing on this earth can truly satisfy! May God give us the humility to discover that we are made for God, and also grant us the determination to live for God as we sojourn on earth. 

In Book XIII of the Confessions Augustine describes heaven as the eternal sabbath as well as the rest that is also a place where we will delight and rejoice in God forever. What moves us there, he says, is our love kindled by the fire of God’s love (Confessions XIII.IX.10). The more we long for that place the more prepared we can be to enter that rest. 

In our day to day life, although we might desire heaven, sometimes we might stumble upon our impulses when they get the better of us, and we do or say what we later wish we had not. We can react with a quick temper or become vindictive after suffering even a minor injustice; we can harbor feelings of jealousy when we wish we did not. We might indulge in certain things too much or we might desire to be above others; meanwhile we might not even be aware of all these inner mechanisms. When we learn more of our imperfections we can be tempted to become despondent, especially when we do not even know how to begin to change, or when we have tried many times unsuccessfully. It is important to remember that we already have been reconciled with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Do not give up on the power of God, through the power of the sacraments, and prayer. 

God can do what we cannot. The fire of divine love can kindle our hearts and raise them to heaven, our true home. Recognizing that as much as we do not want to be of the world, that in part we are part of our sinful world, need not lead us into despair. Although our human eyes may want to focus on our failed attempts and draw human conclusions, we can instead say with St Paul, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). 

The conversion of St Augustine and other saints hold out hope that our hearts can be kindled by divine love and we can be set right into our rightful destination of heaven. God wills all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and Christ has reconciled the world unto himself (2 Cor 5:19). The journey to the eternal sabbath and the rest that will be our eternal place is possible, since “God works now in us, and so will then rest in us” (Confessions XIII.37). Placing our trust and our hope in Him, the source of our eternal happiness and the one who will make it possible, can invite us to rest in Him even as we still live in the world because we know ourselves to be already loved unconditionally. 

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