I was sitting in a small men’s group meeting and listening to a fellow speak about when (God willing) we are in heaven as spirits. He said something about us being able to move about because as he understood it, we’d ‘feel like’ or sense that we had feet. And that we’d make the movements we used to make when we made our legs and feet walk. Yes, I wondered if he was pulling our legs — but the fellow who brought this up is immersed… totally submerged in trying to figure out the answers to what our existence will be when we’ve passed to the other side. Perhaps he’s trying to ‘get a leg up’ on what in store?
And so, I raised the question to our group: “Is there oxygen in heaven?” There were scoffs and immediate comments: “We won’t need oxygen — we’ll be spirits….” To which I replied, “Excuse me… Mary is there, fully embodied. So is Jesus. And there are Old Testament types they were taken up into Heaven.” Everyone decided to move on because we had no idea of where to go on this subject of the other side.
And that brief topic reminded me of a two day parish mission that our former home church in Colorado put on. Two missionary priests were brought in, and we had two days of inspiring talks, prayer, Masses, etc.
I remember little of the retreat except for one talk. It was by an 80+ year old priest that was in retirement, but he had been asked if he’d be willing to help put on this mission.
The talk he gave was based on his thoughts as he neared the end of his life…. and about what heaven might be like. He said that in his almost 60 years of being a priest, he had seldom heard any sermons preached on heaven. In fact, he couldn’t remember anything meaningful being said about heaven. “Oh, sure, there are words in the Gospels… but they’re not very definitive.” And so, this priest spent the rest of that talk giving his ideas about what heaven would be like. Smilingly, I remember this one analogy… we would be always close to the throne of power and dominion. We’d be able to observe everything. It would be like we’re at a football stadium, and each one of us would have the best seats — sitting at the mid point of the field and up high enough to not miss anything. I guess the priest meant that we’ll understand God’s plan, His will and His actions when we join Him in heaven. That’s probably not a far-fetched notion because there is much that happens here on earth that we cannot understand as to God’s plans and intentions.
Paul tells us that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9; cf. CCC 1027).
As a deacon, I’ve married couples – mostly mixed faith situations, although not always. I’ve attended some of the marriage banquets afterwards. They have been joyful situations: great food, choice wines, much laughter and joy. The pre-marriage concerns and stresses and the multitude of decisions were all in the past by the time of the wedding banquet. And that’s a great insight into what it’ll be like in heaven.. a continuing joy that ‘it is accomplished’ and all is well.
A Carthusian monk wrote that ‘heaven will be a lot more human than we can imagine.’ Father Mark Goring says that we should cultivate an imagination of what heaven will be like. And Scripture tells us we are made in the image and likeness of God. I wonder about whether God has any need for nourishment? I know that I’m hungry at least three times a day. Isaiah tells us that we will be able to feast as at a banquet of rich food and fine wine.
A great mystery for sure, but if we apply a bit of human thinking of what this all might mean, then I’m sure that God will provide us with all the oxygen we need on the other side.
Blessings of Advent and the Christ-child to come.