By Deacon John Degano
What happens in heaven, stays in heaven.
I know it sounds like a commercial for Las Vegas and a decadent lifestyle, but no one has returned from heaven to tell us what happens there once we leave this mortal coil.
I suppose that’s so we don’t fall into the trap of expecting something to happen and then being disappointed if it doesn’t happen just the way we thought it would.
A case in point: The Messiah of Israel.
Since the time of King David, Jews had been awaiting the arrival of the Messiah, a warrior leader who would return the Chosen People to the land promised to their ancestors.
The Jewish people had experienced a kingdom under Saul and then David, and had known captivity in Babylon or Assyria or under the oppression of the Egyptians and now the Roman Empire.
They had had a lot of time to reflect upon their lives and they had grabbed onto the image of Messiah as the ends to their means…
When Jesus came, he did not lead the rebellion that the Jews so desperately looked for. He did not throw off the tyrants. He barely made a blip of the radar screen of history.
And yet, here was the promised Messiah, who used gentleness instead of might; love instead of hate; and mercy instead of revenge and wound up a victim of his own making.
Why didn’t he defend himself? Why didn’t he call upon Elijah or the angels or God almighty to break the shackles of Rome and renew the face of the earth?
The Jews got it wrong. Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world. And, in fact, it was breaking in upon the world as we know it. Jesus founded his church and the church has continued the mission to the world, calling people to live lives of love and holiness.
Not so that they might claim victory over their enemies, but so all could enter the kingdom of God. But to do so, requires a change of heart, a life of love. And a spirit of forgiveness.
God gave us all free will and in so doing will not take us by force. That is why we have to look for him in the gentle breeze, the light of dawn or the beauty of a sunset. Jesus remains with us, but resides now in our hearts. To see Jesus we must look into the eyes of the soul. And we’ll find him in the least of our brothers and sisters because they, too, have something to teach us about hope and love. About sacrifice and prayer. About peace and joy.
If you want to catch a glimpse of heaven, then go and receive the Eucharist. It is the moment we are united with God on this side of heaven. Only there aren’t words enough to describe it.
And that is why we have to wait until we get there in order to truly appreciate all that God has in store for us.
May your Easter season be filled with peace and joy.
John Degano is a deacon serving at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.