“Your reward is very great in heaven.”–Matt, v, 12.
Should we desire, in some measure, to anticipate the fullness of the bliss that the Saints enjoy in heaven, we need only recall to mind what Faith teaches us concerning the joy and happiness of Heaven. In this consideration, let us follow the advice of St. Paul, and, even while upon earth, gaze, as in a mirror, upon the joys of heaven; and we will understand that all the joys of this world are likewise found in heaven, but in an immeasurably higher degree.
And still there are Christians who think and say: “There is a heaven; but, alas, how little we know of it, and of what is therein contained!” What a delusion! I say, on the contrary: “We know enough, and so much, indeed, that it is inconceivable how, when once we have earnestly reflected on what Faith teaches us about heaven, we do not continually carry the thought of that blessed abode in our minds, live for heaven, long for heaven, and exclaim, with holy David: “Who will give me wings like a dove, and I will fly and be at rest? Woe is me that my sojourn is prolonged! When, when, O Lord, shall I stand in Thy presence?”
In order to see this truth more clearly, we need but question the Saints themselves, upon whose exultation we are meditating.
“Where are ye?” They will give us their answer from heaven.
O Mary, thou, whose joy is above that of all the Angels and Saints in the bliss of heaven, assist us, that we may one day share that joy in the communion of all the Saints! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
It happened once that an aged servant of God met a man who seemed to be entirely buried in grief, and said to him: “Art thou a Christian? Dost thou believe that there is a heaven awaiting thee? If so, how canst thou mourn? Let them grieve who never have heard of heaven! Let them be downcast who do not believe in heaven!”
To appreciate this truth, it is merely necessary to reflect on where the Saints of God are, and to consider the bliss they there enjoy; for all the happiness they enjoy is within our reach.
And, as life is so short and heaven our approaching destiny forever, is it not proper that we ask the Saints today: “Where are ye?” Listen to their answer as it descends from heaven: “We are in the land of promise; in the land where many meet and none do part. What joy when we found there those whom we loved on earth, who served God with us, whom death had torn from us, and with whom we now enjoy life ever lasting!” Dost thou hear this, afflicted soul? Hast thou lost relatives and acquaintances? Hast thou the hope that they died a holy death? Console thyself! Rejoice and sing the jubilee of the Saints! Soon thou wilt see them again.
“Ye Saints of God, where are ye?” Listen to their answer: “We are in paradise. We behold the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.” Paradise means that part of creation which expands over the regions of the starry firmament.
There is a proverb which says: “See Naples and die.” Still, what is Naples? What is the beauty of the earth, even in its most charming spot? All these, in God’s sight, are as thistles and thorns–the husks with which He feeds the sinner for the little moral good he does during life.
A God, infinitely beautiful, blessed, and at the same time Almighty, is able to create more than the dust of this world. Yet, even of this earthly home, how little do we possess! Poor man, do you hear the call from heaven? “The heavens are mine; all mine.” Thus shalt thou, too, soon cry out. Rejoice and be jubilant, and cry to the Saints: We come soon, soon!
“Where are ye, Saints of God?” Hear their answer from heaven: “We are in the kingdom of reward.” The greatness of which reward no eye hath seen, nor ear heard; neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. Oh, too much, too much! Thus exult the Saints. They are in the land of joy, of perfect joy; and there is no shadow of sorrow, no grief, no misery, forever.
“I heard a voice from the throne, which said: There shall be neither suffering, nor complaining, nor misery, nor want, nor separation, nor death. What was, has gone by. The Lord has dried the tears from the eyes of His own forever.” Thus writes St. John, who, in ecstasies, had got a glimpse of heaven.
Child of man, is it labor that weighs thee down, is it sickness, grief, persecution, that embitters thy life? Think on heaven. Soon thou wilt be in the kingdom of reward and joy. Persevere, and thou shalt enter forever into the joy of the Lord. Oh, what a consolation! Yes, ye Saints, we come soon to the kingdom of joy.
“Where are ye, ye Saints?” Hear the answer from heaven: “We enjoy the communion of all the Angels and Saints–we entered into the communion of their blessedness and glory.” Nor is this all, for the Lord not only rewards every one according to his works, but there is also a participation of each in the bliss of all.
Hearest thou, O melancholy soul? What is it that casts thee down? Art thou alone and abandoned on earth? Are all whom thou lovest and who were dear to thee, dead? Soon thou, also, wilt sing thy canticle of joy in heaven: “I see all the Angels, the Archangels, the Principalities, the Powers, the Virtues, the Dominations, the Thrones, the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and I enter into the bliss and love of all the holy Virgins, Confessors and Martyrs, of the Patriarchs and Prophets, of the beloved Apostle of Christ, St. John, and of St. Joseph? Why should I bewail you, ye holy acquaintances and relatives? Soon will I share with you your everlasting joy.”
“Where are ye now, ye Saints of God?” “With Mary and Jesus,” echoes the answer. “What is mine is thine:” thus cries Mary to every saved child of hers, and Jesus fulfills His promise: “To the victor I will give to sit with Me on My throne.”
“Where are ye, ye Saints of God?” Hear the answer: “Near God, with God, in God.” “I Myself,” says the Almighty, “am thy reward exceeding great.” Remember this: God, the never-ending happiness, shall soon be thy lot and portion; and, oh, in what a union! There is no expression for it in human language.
“We shall see Him as He is,” as St. John tells us. “They shall be like God,” says Christ Himself. Christian soul, how canst thou grieve, when thou thinkest on the jubilee of the Saints, which thou art soon to share? Hear their call from heaven: “We see God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Thus they shout in thunders of Alleluias: “We are now united to God, submerged in the never-ending power, wisdom, holiness, mercy, truth, majesty, and magnificence of God, and lost in His infinite beauty and blessedness and love. We are one with God as His godlike representations.”
I will give you an illustration: Suppose an acquaintance, a father, brother, friend, or bridegroom were to come from afar, and you did not know it, and he were to stand at the door behind a curtain. You can not see him, but there is in the room a mirror, in which his image is reflected. Looking at the mirror, you would cry out: “Oh, it is my father, brother, friend, or husband!”
Were it possible for this man to impart his life to the image shadowed in the mirror, we could say, at once: “It is he!” This mirror in heaven is the light of glory, in which the soul sees the image of God reflected, of Whose divine life she now partakes. Oh, what a place of divine bliss!
Christian soul, when thou takest seriously to heart the answer that the Saints have just given from heaven, then must thou say: “Beautiful heaven, thee must I possess, cost what it may–labor, suffering, blood, and life itself. How glad must thou not be if thou reflectest that it depends on thee alone to become truly holy. Sin is the only hinderance that presents itself in thy way. But there is neither man nor devil capable of forcing thee to sin. Man is free, and with the grace of God is stronger than the whole world, and all flesh, nay, even stronger than hell itself.
Of like strength is virtue, which we must practise, in order to multiply our joys in heaven. It is true that men and hell are able to prevent us from fulfilling this or that work of virtue and zeal: but nothing in the world can hinder us from doing God’s will, from so doing what He expects of us, that we may go forward, meritoriously, on the path of Christian perfection. These practices of virtue are presented to us in the words of Christ Himself, words that the Church repeats to us in the gospel of today, the feast of All Saints: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are they that mourn. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice. Blessed are the clean of heart. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the peace-makers. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake. Exceedingly great is their reward in heaven.” It is Christ Himself Who gives us this assurance.
Live up to these eight beatitudes, after the example of the Saints on earth, and soon shalt thou rejoice in communion with them in heaven through Him, the King of All Saints. Amen.