By Father Woods
There is a rumor out there that everyone goes to Heaven when they die. Now immediately there is a lot of finger pointing about who is admitted to Heaven. Arguments about the meaning of being “born again”, identifying “infidels”, or what constitutes the “true religion” muddy the waters significantly and cause no end of fascination as human beings attempt to play God. Of course there are people who don’t believe in Heaven – or Hell for that matter. Still, get a group of people together who believe in God and believe in Heaven and you will find a pretty strong trend that all people go to Heaven. (But even this group is left puzzled by people like Adolf Hitler.)
Of course we have to go back to the Lord Jesus Himself. What did He have to say about the matter? Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14) Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21) If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15) Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (John 6:53-56)
These words of the Lord do not seem to imply that everyone automatically goes to Heaven. They should also not fill us with dread or fear. They should, however, wake us up to the seriousness of our relationship with God. It’s as simple as a couple getting married and the spouses saying “If you want to do this, here are the ground rules: no dating other people. We have to work at this every day. We’re going to make mistakes but we are going to keep at it.” They don’t presume it’s automatic. They know it has to be entered into with great seriousness. They have to put everything into it. Our relationship with God is the same. We can’t “earn” our way to Heaven or get there by our own efforts, but we must cooperate with God and demonstrate that we want to live with Him now and in the life of Eternity.
What exactly is Heaven? Heaven is where God dwells without any of the veils or obstacles we face in this life. Those in Heaven see Him as He is; in His fullness. In His presence there is no sin, sickness, sadness, or unhappiness. What makes Heaven Heaven is being fully in God’s presence. So we take the words of the Lord Jesus to heart. We must enter through the narrow gate. We must keep His commandments. We must feed on His Body and Blood. The one who goes to Heaven is the one who does the will of the Father – and that “will” is revealed by Jesus and lived by the Church. Most of us like a good challenge. The greatest challenge of all is to be a follower of Jesus in fact as well as in name. The easiest way through the narrow gate is taking His Hand, surrendering our own schemes, and allowing Him to lead us into the life He suffered and died to make possible.