Although we believe we are Christian, sometimes we discover some really deep-seated pagan beliefs among us. Pagan beliefs die hard. For example the popular belief that heaven begins after death, after the cemetery. That is wrong, and very pagan. For Christians, heaven begins with our baptism. That is our Christian faith. Listen carefully with me to the words of the prayer Jesus taught us, “The Our Father”.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be they name.
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
And, Jesus said frequently,
“The Kingdom of God is at hand”; and he told the Apostles to proclaim, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Heaven is here. Heaven is now. For those of us who are baptized, our job is to make heaven happen here and now. When a Christian man and woman fall in love and decide to marry, they want heaven for one another. A man’s job is to create heaven for himself and his spouse and their children. A women’s job is to make heaven happen for herself and her spouse and their children. In Sacramental Marriage we marry in heaven, before God. Marriage and family should be safe places; safe from any kind of abuse or sin. But we don’t always do that, do we?
Allow me to share a personal experience.
Most of you know I am a widower and a father of six children. One time I heard my older children entering the house with a flood of foul words coming out of their mouths.
I stopped what I was doing and invited them into the living room for a “talk with Dad”. At first I began to tell them that this kind of language was unacceptable. One of them stopped me, saying, “Dad, hold on. We hear you cursing all the time. Don’t be a hypocrite!”
That stopped me in my tracks. I was guilty as charged. I had no business lecturing them. I walked away from the conversation like a beaten dog.
After days of reflecting on this, I called them back to the conversation. I started over from a new perspective. “Look,” I said, “I was wrong in my comments the other day, and you were right. But this is an important topic. Let’s take another look at it.”
“I’m not going to be the policemen of ‘street behavior’ when it is out in the street. However, do you see that front door? Can we at least agree that street behavior should stay outside our front door? Let’s agree to keep the house free from any kind of abuse. That means language abuse, anger abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, etc. Let’s see if we can make and keep a pact that our home will be safe from all kinds of abuse.”
Without much further discussion, they all agreed. And from that time forward, with few lapses, we all kept our promise to create a safe home.
The story doesn’t stop there. There were unexpected results. We were creating new habits of behavior in our home. Gradually, I began to notice changes.
In my workplace, I never said anything to others about cursing. The subject never came up. Gradually I noticed that my habits at home were following me out of my home, even to my workplace. My cursing outside the home declined. I began to notice that when people came into my presence they didn’t appear to curse as much. Additionally, I began to have difficulty with my regular vocabulary. Without habitually cursing to give emphasis to my language, my regular English appeared to take on new, surprising power. I got into trouble more easily if my words came out too strong. I learned to choose my words more carefully. My habits at home were affecting my life outside the home.
And there was more. My weekend chores included fixing breakfast on Saturday mornings for the whole house. We often had guests staying over, but something was changing. I noticed that the number of kids who slept over at our house on Friday nights and came to breakfast on Saturdays was growing. I asked my children what was going on. I was told that some of their friends did whatever they could to get away from home on weekends. They felt “safe” at our house. “Safe? From what?” I asked. My kids told me, “I don’t know, Dad, but they say they feel safer here at our home.”
Over the years I have reflected upon this episode. When I began to do house blessings, I would tell this story. The teaching for “house blessing” is for the family to bless their home and make it safe; to say together, in one way or another, “See that front door? Street behavior and all kinds of abuse must not come through our front door. All abusive behavior must remain outside that door. This home must be safe for all, the residents and the visitors.”
With more time I came to realize that what we were really doing was creating “heaven” in our home. And, gradually, Graces increased. The Holy Spirit aids our efforts with real progress. Our job is, to create heaven on earth, in cooperation with God’s Will. Heaven on earth is not the same as God’s eternal paradise, but it is a foretaste, like a sample, of the heaven to come.
We don’t do this alone. St. Paul tells us,
“The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”
When a man and woman choose to marry, shouldn’t it be their goal to create heaven on earth between them? Everyone wants to live in heaven!
Have you ever watched a child of one or two years bounce between his parents, jumping or lunging from Mom to Dad, from Dad to Mom, and back and forth? The evidence is right there before us when we see this. Mom and Dad are both “heaven” for this child. Children never go from heaven to “out of heaven” at that age. They are too smart for that. Children don’t voluntarily move from safety to abuse. You can’t fool a child. Children know heaven.
The parents’ job is to create heaven for their children. Yes, they must impose order in the home, because heaven is not a disordered place where anything goes. Heaven is a safe place; safe from all abuse and disorder.
Home is that heaven when we bless them by making them safe from all kinds of abuse. Love flourishes in heaven. Love dies in Hell.
Now let’s look at our parish. Fr. Victor’s job, and mine, is to bring a slice of heaven to earth in our parish in order to help nourish families and individuals. The principal way is through the liturgy and the sacraments. Where God is, there is heaven. Christ is visibly present in the Eucharist on the altar. The Lord is present in the confessional and in baptism. When you come to Church and Mass regularly, you are participating in heaven, whether you actually feel like it or not.
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.”
Be careful what you allow into your home! Keep the weeds out of your home! You can do that. Pornography, drugs, alcohol abuse, anger and emotional abuses. We can keep the weeds out of our homes.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
When we sow the good seed, the good yeast in our homes, be prepared for people and blessings and graces to be drawn to the safety of your heaven. The Holy Spirit will come and dwell with you. The Kingdom of God is at hand!