August 2022 Allocutio

“Because you’re getting closer to heaven!”

Fr. Paul Churchill

This time of year provide us with a great array of saints who are very inspiring, some of whom also have the merit of being known for their special devotion to Our Lady. These include Sts. Dominic, Maximilian Kolbe and Bernard. St Teresa of the Andes said that we should already develop a great friendship with the saints as they will be our companions in eternity and why not begin now? To this we can add that this month of August also has embedded in it at least two great feasts of Our Lady: the Assumption and her coronation as Queen of heaven. All of this has to draw our minds and hearts to that homeland that is our final destiny.

An elderly man I know said to me a few years ago: You know, it’s lovely to be old. I wondered what he meant for I know of some elderly people who suffer a lot. And indeed this man had his trials too. I was wondering if he was referring to the fact that life at his age is less stressful. No work, less responsibilities, no expectations on you, people keeping an eye out for you and so on. But I thought I’d ask what he meant and said: What do you mean by that? His reply was not quite what I expected: Because you’re getting closer to heaven!

I began to realise that here was a man who belonged to the tradition which we hear of in God’s word: such people long for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. “We have not here a lasting city but we seek one that is to come” (Heb 13:14). Jesus himself challenges us in the Gospel to seek treasure in heaven where nothing destroys it. Do we? Should we not look forward to heaven more than to holidays, or to a family wedding or the return to good health?

The more I read about our Universe, the more I realise that all is changing and nothing lasts. We notice that even spiritual entities change. People come and go, languages change, even the Church changes its face over the centuries as it is purified. The goalposts of life are being forever shifted. The world you were born into is no more; the world you die in may be quite different from today. People who look for something dependable and secure will have to look elsewhere than down here. And I wonder if when Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans he did so because that society didn’t answer his needs. If so he was indirectly asserting that our hope lies ahead of us, in God’s heaven.

Is heaven an illusion? The people of faith say no. Those who witnessed the Resurrection say they have seen the proof. There was something about the reports of the change in Bernadette at Lourdes to say that she had seem something quite different. But I notice something else. Am I wrong in observing about life that the older people become the more they turn from childish ways, are quicker to be more tolerant and to forgive and to want the ways of peace and love and justice to triumph. Many a person who in their more youthful days espoused violence as a means of improving things either have second thoughts as they get older or completely drop the way of violence. They would often put up with things that cause annoyance. I know I have changed over the years and am still changing. It is as if we learn different and better ways as we move on in life. And I ask if that is not also a sign of the building bricks of heaven being put in place, where the citizens of that new world, now purified, are the ones who will be the building bricks of the New Jerusalem.

In other words heaven is not just a place we are going to; we ourselves are part of the bricks and cement of the New Jerusalem. Provided we are purified in the furnace of this life! And if that is the case then it makes sense of the many parables of Jesus about sorting out the good from the bad. The selfish who do not see the needs of others will not be part of that new Jerusalem. On the other hand the more we suffer, especially in the depths of our beings and so learn the needs of the human spirit, the better the citizen of the new city of heaven we will be.

Our heavenly homeland is not just a place. It is a community. If I may turn to the vision of Knock, witnessed by so many. It corresponds greatly to those visions reported in the Book of Revelation. The Lamb on the Altar is in the centre. He is surrounded by angels and present are Mary and two saints, Joseph and John. We know also from the Book of Revelations that numbers of people beyond counting will be present. They will be those who have allowed the Lamb to touch and purify and transform their lives.

Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. There are many reasons why Mary was taken into heaven but I’d like to point out one Gospel text that throws some extra light on that. The Lord said, “Who is that wise and loyal servant whom the Lord places over his household to allot them their share of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant if the Lord so finds him. He will place him over everything he owns” (Lk 12:42). Now if you apply those words to Mary the vision of Knock makes sense. Who is with her in the vision if not her Son, the Lamb of God, her husband Joseph whom she committed to in marriage and finally her adopted son of Calvary, John the young disciple. In other words, her household. And now having looked after them well she is the Queen, now in charge of God’s whole domain. The vision of which she is crowned Queen, thus illustrates this text and shows that the claim that she has been given charge of God’s treasury of graces is fulfilled most completely in her.

Here is a question for you: How much does it really matter to you that you go to heaven, you and yours? The good servant who has responsibility for his household works to make sure his charges get to heaven. All of us have a responsibility to ensure that we work to form those who are committed to our care become citizens of the New Jerusalem. Like John the Baptist we have to point them towards Jesus. We have to be shining examples of good standards before them so that they can see what a citizen of heaven is like. We may have to challenge them if we are concerned they are taking a wrong road. Remember Mary’s words, “My son, what have you done to us. Did you not know that your father and I have been searching anxiously for you?” And he got the message!

In this week of the Assumption and Queenship of Mary, let’s ask Mary to help us to be good and wise servants who will indeed attend properly to our charges.