Creating Heaven on earth requires our generous contribution to community life: home, neighbours, work
The first thing that challenges us, is the image of Heaven being hidden. If God wants us all in Heaven, why is it hidden? Why did Jesus use parables instead of plain speaking?
And, yet, when we think about the precious things in our lives, we usually place them in protected places or “safes”. For men, we usually value things that we have worked hard for, not what has been given for free.
In a sense, we are challenged to ask: what is our Treasure? Can we verbalise what it is? Perhaps if we did, we might be shocked at what we say???
But, perhaps, we say the things that give us pleasure: my car/bike? Good food/ wine? Phone/ laptop? Video games? My work? Being the star in front of others? Or could it be my wife/ husband? My children? The beauty of creation? My friendships?
I do believe Heaven is already visible but we might lack the right viewpoint to see Heaven: like the little fish asking mum: where is this “ocean” thing I keep hearing about?
Secondly, the idea of selling everything we have to buy Heaven seems a bit over the top. However, when a young man falls deeply in love, they are usually prepared to sacrifice everything to be with her. Perhaps it helps if we reverse the plot:
God has discovered you, and has sacrificed everything (His only begotten Son), to rescue us. And we are making a mess of the beautiful creation that God has given us.
Here, too, we must be careful. Selling everything doesn’t refer only to our finances and assets. But where we give our time and energy to.
We can look at our parents who have sacrificed almost everything to give us a life. At least in the beginning many parents give up their career or pleasures to be present to us.
Having just completed a couple of weeks talking to the senior students at Mazenod College, it’s clear that many of them don’t specifically apply religion to their career choice: their job preferences are mainly based on income and what they want to do.
When I suggested they also consider what is lacking in society, they seemed surprised. Perhaps they are right to be surprised because we older generations have told them to “live THEIR dreams,” instead of: help our community live OUR dream of unity, peace and prosperity.
I’ve challenged them to understand that Religion is not so much about getting people into Heaven when they die, but a valid Religion must be concerned with creating Heaven on earth. Heaven is basically a perfect community: each person feels peace, belonging, meaning, etc.
How many parents volunteer at community groups as an example to their children? The only way to build a perfect community is through our personal sacrifice for others: money helps with material needs, but our sacrifice and regular presence are the cement that holds it together.
There is a Jesuit College in Sydney that, as part of the requirements for attending the school, require fathers & sons to volunteer together at any community venue, for 40 hours each year.
When introduced in the mid-1990’s, it immediately had positive effects: fathers and sons spent meaningful time doing things together and opening doors of conversation; and, the school bullies, and macho ideas of being a man, calmed down.
What about each one of us? What motivates us? Do we focus on material things and work ourselves to death, while ignoring community needs? Do we do any volunteering? Volunteering, or doing community service in some way, causes the giver to receive blessings and strengthen their mental health and sense of dignity.
Here, the First Reading is helpful for us: Do we ask God for Wisdom or do we usually only ask for things from God? The assumption being that we are already wise enough?
There is a clever distinction between wisdom and being smart: A smart man knows what to say… but a wise man knows when to say it.
Often, a person will be offered a promotion with more money, but one that requires more time away from the family. What should we do? What is the true value of the job, and what is the value of the family? It requires a strong will to refuse the money and prioritise the family.
Let us embrace Community as the treasure that helps us create Heaven on earth, so we can easily enter Heaven in the new life to come.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI