On the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you?”
Now, these are most certainly words of comfort; but they should not be interpreted as referring only to our endless, blissful future life in heaven. These words should penetrate the recesses of our minds and hearts in such a way that they become consistent with this passage: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
We should become viscerally convinced that whenever and wherever we feel God’s presence, we find joy, comfort, serenity, and peace of mind. The relevance of these words should become overwhelming if we keep in mind that they were first spoken in the context of impending intensive suffering, rejection, betrayal, a most cruel scourging, crowning with thorns and the cross.
Today, they are spoken to us who are intimately one with Jesus as Risen Lord through Baptism and Holy Communion. Their relevance must be overwhelming for us and secure for us complete joy, comfort, serenity, and peace of mind because we are one with him after his Resurrection, after he has already won his victory over anything and anyone that could rob us of or diminish comfort, serenity, peace of mind and joy.
In short, a good “rendition” of heaven can be felt even now in the context of living our life in the loving embrace of the Holy Trinity. Hence, the good news that Jesus proposes presents us with an unusual challenge which can be met successfully only if we live with the visceral conviction that the Resurrection of Christ has truly and thoroughly made us new creatures.
In the new creation generated by the Resurrection, we are challenged to believe that extreme situations such as very limited financial means, bouts with depression, a chronic nagging illness, a life-threatening diagnosis, betrayal, prolonged unemployment, devastating losses, in addition to the all-encompassing uncertainty we experience about the future, should not keep us from enjoying a sliver of heaven even now.
This daunting challenge can be met successfully: the lives of the Saints prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. If, at present, we find ourselves at a very low ebb, we ought to resist the thought that our trying and painful situation is unique and, thus, that we should be left to wallow in our miseries. Our God wants us to be joy-filled even now.
There are Catholic printing houses who offer us inspiring lives of Saints who faced the same challenges that we are experiencing now; and came out victorious. They felt joy, comfort, serenity, and peace of mind in situations severe enough that would throw us for a spin and cause us to crumble.
Naturally, we cannot expect, here on earth, to feel with the same completeness and intensity the joy that will be ours in heaven. Our experience of heaven here on earth is much dwarfed by our worries, by our distractions, by a disordered list of priorities, and by being absorbed in things and events which will have little or no bearing in heaven.
Jesus mentions two requirements for experiencing heaven while still on earth.
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. (John 14:23)
To experience heaven within the limits imposed by our physicality, here on earth, we must learn to love Jesus and to keep his word including the following:
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)
These words addressed also to us sound unbelievable and might be easily dismissed by us, unless we truly love Jesus; keep his word; live fully in this, the post-resurrection era; and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to invest us completely.
We should find inspiration from the lives of the Saints. They were convinced they were living with the Holy Trinity in their hearts. They experienced heaven amid all the obstacles that they encountered on their way to evangelize entire nations, to build charitable empires, to reconcile warring nations, to perform astonishing miracles, to preserve for posterity ancient civilizations, and to offer inspiring examples of joyous self-giving.
Whenever we are tempted to give in to discouragement or we are facing very serious obstacles, we must remember that Jesus went to the Father and, from the Father, he sent us the Holy Spirit. Now, with the Holy Trinity dwelling in our heart and the firm assurance of a share in Jesus’ victory over all evils we, too, can do his works and greater than those done by him before his Resurrection.
What Jesus accomplished within the boundaries of the Holy Land has been accomplished all over the world by those who believe in these incredible words of his. As often as we feel the closeness of heaven and the Holy Trinity dwelling in us, we will be well equipped to join the Saints in doing Jesus’ works and greater ones than his in our little corner of the world and, perhaps, even beyond.