Church Triumphant, Church Militant, Church Suffering

For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.--ROM. xii. 4, 5.

Heaven, Life Everlasting

I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you.--JOHN xvi. 22.

Our Lord spoke the words of our text just before He entered upon His passion. He knew that on account of His imminent sufferings, His death, and all the subsequent persecutions that would follow, His disciples would be filled with sorrow and sadness; and in order to hearten them, and to strengthen them for their coming trials and grief, He consoled them by the promise that He would meet them again, that after the " little while " of the present life, when their sorrows would be over. He would greet them, and their joy no man should take from them.

I. The meaning of this Article of the Creed, 1. The words "life everlasting" signify that the happiness of the blessed does not consist in corporal or transitory things, but in things spiritual and eternal. 2. The happiness of "life everlasting" is beyond the power of our earthly words to express. It implies two things, namely, exemption from all evils, such as sickness, death, etc. (Apoc. xxi. 4), and the possession of all good. 3. The positive happiness of heaven is twofold, essential and accessory.

II. The essential happiness of heaven consists in the vision of God, in seeing God face to face as He is. I. This beatitude conveys the idea of knowledge of the Supreme Truth from whom all other truths are derived, and possession of the Supreme Good who is the source of all we love. 2. In knowing God we shall know all else that we desire to know. 3. From the beatific vision will result an ecstatic love that will completely fill our heart's capacity.

III. The accessory happiness of heaven consists: I. In the glory which the blessed will have from God and from their fellow saints. 2. In the perfections of their minds and bodies, and in their celestial dwelling. 3. In the certainty which the blessed have that their happiness is unending. 4. In the fact that they never experience satiety or weariness.

CONCLUSION. l. Life everlasting should be the ruling influence of our thoughts and actions. All else in life should be subordinated to our future lasting happiness and we should make use of every means in our power to attain it. 2. The thought of future glory is a consolation in sorrow.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part I


Life everlasting


The wisdom of the Apostles, our guides in religion, suggested to them the propriety of giving this Article the last place in the Creed, which is the summary of our faith: first, because after the resurrection of the body the only object of the Christian's hope is the reward of everlasting life; and secondly, in order that perfect happiness, embracing as it does the fulness of all good, may be ever present to our minds and absorb all our thoughts and affections. In his instructions to the faithful the pastor, therefore, will unceasingly endeavor to light up in their souls an ardent desire of the promised rewards of eternal life, that thus they may look upon as light, or even agreeable, whatever difficulties they may experience in the practice of religion, and may yield a more willing and an entire obedience to God.


But as many mysteries lie concealed under the words which are here used to declare the happiness reserved for us, they are to be explained in such a manner as to make them intelligible to all, as far as their respective capacities will allow. The faithful, therefore, are to be informed that the words "life everlasting" signify not only that continuity of existence to which the devils and the wicked are consigned, but also that perpetuity of happiness which is to satisfy the desires of the blessed. In this sense, they were understood by the ruler mentioned in the Gospel when he asked the Redeemer: "Good master, what shall I do to possess everlasting life?"(1) as if he had said, What shall I do in order to arrive at the enjoyment of everlasting happiness? In this sense, they are understood in the sacred volumes, as is clear from a reference to many passages of Scripture.(2) The supreme happiness of the blessed is thus designated, principally to exclude the notion that it consists in corporeal and transitory things, which cannot be everlasting.(3)


The word "blessedness" is insufficient to express the idea, particularly as there have not been wanting men who, inflated with the vain opinions of a false philosophy, would place the supreme good in sensible things. But these grow old and perish, while supreme happiness is defined by no limits of time. Nay more, so far is the enjoyment of the goods of this life from conferring real happiness that, on the contrary, he who is captivated by a love of the world is farthest removed from true happiness; for it is written: "Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him."(4) A little farther on we read, "The world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof."(5) The pastor, therefore, will be careful to impress these truths on the minds of the faithful, that they may learn to despise earthly things, and to know that in this world, in which we are not citizens but sojourners,(6) happiness is not to be found. Yet, even here below, we may be said with truth to be happy in hope, if "denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we ... live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."(7) Many who seemed to themselves wise,(8) not understanding these things, and imagining that happiness was to be sought in this life, became fools and the victims of the most deplorable calamities.


These words, "life everlasting," also teach us that, contrary to the false notions of some, happiness once attained can never be lost. Happiness is an accumulation of good without admixture of evil, which, as it fills up the measure of man's desires, must be eternal. He who is blessed with its enjoyment must earnestly desire its continuance, and, were it transient and uncertain, would necessarily experience the torture of continual apprehension.(9)


The intensity of the happiness which the just enjoy in their celestial country, and its utter incomprehensibility to all but to themselves alone, are sufficiently conveyed by the very words which are here used to express that happiness. When to express any idea we make use of a word common to many things, we do so because we have no proper term by which to express it clearly and fully. When, therefore, to express happiness, words are adopted which are not more applicable to the blessed than to all who are to live for ever, we are led to infer that the idea presents to the mind something too great, too exalted, to be expressed fully by a proper term. True, the happiness of heaven is expressed in Scripture by a variety of other words, such as, the "kingdom of God,"(10) "of Christ,"(11) "of heaven,"(12) "paradise,"(13) "the holy city," "the new Jerusalem,"(14) "my Father's house"; (15) yet it is clear that none of these appellations is sufficient to convey an adequate idea of its greatness.


The pastor, therefore, will not neglect the opportunity which this Article affords of inviting the faithful to the practice of piety, of justice, and of all the other virtues, by holding out to them such ample rewards as are announced in the words "life everlasting." Among the blessings which we instinctively desire, life is confessedly esteemed one of the greatest: by it principally, when we say " life everlasting," do we express the happiness of the just. If, then, during this short and checkered period of our existence, which is subject to so many and such various vicissitudes that it may be called death rather than life, there is nothing to which we so fondly cling, nothing which we love so dearly as life; with what ardor of soul, with what earnestness of purpose, should we not seek that eternal happiness which, without alloy of any sort, presents to us the pure and unmixed enjoyment of every good? The happiness of eternal life is, as defined by the Fathers, " air exemption from all evil, and an enjoyment of all good."(16) That it is an exemption from all evil the Scriptures declare in the most explicit terms. "They shall no more hunger nor thirst," says St. John, "neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat";(17) and again, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away."(18) But the glory of the blessed shall be without measure, and their solid joys and pleasures without number. The mind is incapable of comprehending or conceiving the greatness of this glory: it can be known only by its fruition, that is, by entering into the joy of the Lord, and thus satisfying fully the desires of the human heart. Although, as St. Augustine observes, it would seem easier to enumerate the evils from which we shall be exempt than the goods and the pleasures which we shall enjoy;(19) yet we must endeavor to explain, briefly and clearly, these things which are calculated to inflame the faithful with a desire of arriving at the enjoyment of this supreme felicity.


Before we proceed to this explanation, we shall make use of a distinction which has been sanctioned by the most eminent writers on religion; it is, that there are two sorts of goods, one an ingredient, another an accompaniment of happiness. The former, therefore, for the sake of perspicuity, they have called essential; the latter, accessory. Solid happiness, which we may designate by the common appellation, "essential," consists in the vision of God, and the enjoyment of His eternal beauty who is the source and principle of all goodness and perfection. "This," says our Lord, "is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."(20) These sentiments St. John seems to interpret when he says: "Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like to Him: because we shall see Him as He is."(21) These words inform us that the happiness of heaven consists of two things: to see God such as He is in His own nature and substance, and to be made like unto Him.


Those who enjoy the beatific vision, while they retain their own nature, assume a certain admirable and almost divine form, so as to seem gods rather than men. Why they assume this form becomes at once intelligible if we only reflect that a thing is known either from its essence, or from its image and appearance; but as nothing resembles God so as to afford by that resemblance a perfect knowledge of Him, no creature can behold His divine nature and essence unless admitted by the Deity to a sort of union with Himself, according to these words of St. Paul: "We now see through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face."(22) The words, "in a dark manner", St. Augustine understands to mean that we see Him in a resemblance calculated to convey to us some faint notion of the Deity.(23) This, St. Denis clearly shows when he says(24) that the things above cannot be known by comparison with the things below; for the essence and substance of anything incorporeal cannot be known through the image of that which is corporeal, particularly as a resemblance must be less gross and more spiritual than that which it represents, as we know from universal experience. Since, therefore, we can find nothing created equally pure and spiritual with God, no resemblance can enable us perfectly to comprehend the divine essence.

Moreover, all created things are circumscribed within certain limits of perfection; but God is circumscribed by no limits, and therefore nothing created can reflect His immensity. The only means, therefore, of arriving at a knowledge of the divine essence is that God unite Himself in some sort to us, and after an incomprehensible manner elevate our minds to a higher degree of perfection, and thus render us capable of contemplating the beauty of His nature. This the light of His glory will accomplish; illumined by its splendor we shall see God, the true light, in His own light.(25)

The blessed always see God present, and by this greatest and most exalted of gifts, being made "partakers of the Divine nature,"(26) they enjoy true and solid happiness. Our belief of this truth should therefore be animated by an assured hope of one day arriving, through the divine goodness, at the same happy goal, according to these words of the Nicene Creed: "I expect the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come." These are divine truths which defy the powers of human language and mock the limits of human comprehension.

We may, however, trace some resemblance of this happy change in sensible objects, for as iron when acted on by fire becomes ignited, and while it is substantially the same seems changed into fire, which is a different substance, so the blessed, who are admitted into the glory of heaven and who burn with a love of God, although they cease not to be the same, are yet affected in such a manner as that they may be said with truth to differ more from the inhabitants of this earth than iron when ignited differs from itself when cold.


To say all in a few words: Supreme and absolute happiness, which we call essential, consists in the possession of God; for what can he lack to consummate his happiness who possesses God, the fountain of all good, the fulness of all perfection?


To this happiness, however, are appended certain gifts which are common to all the blessed, and which, because more within the reach of human comprehension, are generally found more effectual in exciting the mind and inflaming the heart.(27) These the Apostle seems to have in view when, in his epistle to the Romans, he says; "Glory, and honor, and peace to every one that worketh good."(28) The blessed shall enjoy glory; not only that glory which we have already shown to constitute essential happiness, or to be its inseparable accompaniment, but also that glory which consists in the clear and comprehensive knowledge which each of the blessed shall have of the singular and exalted dignity of his companions in glory.

But how distinguished must not that honor be which is conferred by God Himself, who no longer calls them servants, but friends,(29) brethren,(30) and sons of God!(31) Hence the Redeemer will address His elect in these words, which at once breathe infinite love and bespeak the highest honor: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you."(32) Justly, then, may we exclaim with the psalmist: " Thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honorable."(33) They shall also receive the highest praise from Christ the Lord, in presence of His Heavenly Father, and before the assembled hosts of heaven.

And if nature has interwoven in the human heart the desire of honor, particularly when conferred by men eminent for wisdom, who are the most authoritative vouchers of merit, what an accession of glory to the blessed, to evince towards each other the highest veneration!

To enumerate all the delights with which the souls of the blessed shall be inebriated would be an endless task. We cannot even conceive them in idea. With this truth, however, the minds of the faithful should be deeply impressed: that the happiness of the saints is full to overflowing of all those pleasures which can be enjoyed or even desired in this life, whether they regard the powers of the mind or the perfection of the body,-- a consummation more exalted in the manner of its accomplishment than, to use the Apostle's words, eye hath seen, ear heard, or the heart of man conceived.(34)

The body, which was before gross and material, having put off mortality and now become refined and spiritualized, shall no longer stand in need of corporal nutriment: while the soul shall be satiated with that eternal food of glory which the Master of that great feast will minister in person, to all.(35)

Who will desire rich apparel or royal robes, where these appendages of human grandeur shall be superseded; and all shall be clothed with immortality and splendor, and adorned with a crown of imperishable glory?

And if the possession of a spacious and magnificent mansion forms an ingredient in human happiness, what more spacious, what more magnificent, can imagination picture than the mansion of heaven, illumined as it is throughout with the blaze of glory which encircles the Godhead! Hence the prophet, contemplating the beauty of this dwelling-place, and burning with the desire of reaching those mansions of bliss, exclaims: "How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God."(36) That the faithful may be all filled with the same sentiments and utter the same language should be the object of the pastor's most earnest desires, as it should be of his zealous labors. "In my Father's house," says our Lord," there are many mansions,"(37) in which shall be distributed rewards of greater and of less value according to each one's deserts; for "he who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings."(38)


The pastor, therefore, will not only move the faithful to a desire of arriving at this happiness, but will frequently remind them that infallibly to attain it, they must possess the virtues of faith and charity; they must persevere in the exercise of prayer and the salutary use of the sacraments, and in a faithful discharge of all the good offices which spring from fraternal charity. Thus, through the mercy of God, who has prepared that blessed glory for those who serve Him, shall be one day fulfilled the words of the prophet: "My people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacle of confidence, and in wealthy rest."(39)




The Word of God, in both the Old Testament and the New, speaks unceasingly of the perfect and lasting happiness which God has prepared for His faithful servants. The joys of the kingdom of heaven are insisted upon by prophet, apostle, and the Saviour Himself, to comfort us in our struggles and sorrows, to remind us of the brief duration of our earthly pilgrimage, to incite us to persevere faithfully until the end, that we might win our reward exceedingly great. "I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come" (Rom. viii. 18). "We have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come " (Heb. xiii. 14). "Be thou faithful until death: and I will give thee the crown of life " (Apoc. ii. 10). "Your reward is very great in heaven" (Matt. v. 12). "They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure " (Ps. xxxv. 10).

It is impossible for any mortal to describe adequately the happiness of heaven. The apostles on Thabor who saw the Saviour transfigured with the glory of His Father's kingdom "fell upon their face, and were very much afraid" (Matt. xvii. 6). St. Paul, the greatest genius the religious world ever knew, although vouchsafed a vision of paradise, could only marvel at its beauty and be silent (2 Cor. xii. 4). He knew that its happiness far surpassed the dreams of the brightest intelligence, or the hopes of the most loving heart. " Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him " (I Cor. ii. 9). St. John the Beloved pictures heaven with its gates of pearl, its streets of pure gold, its foundations of all precious stones, its light of the glory of God (Apoc. xxi. 19-23), and yet his imagery in no way pretends to give a real account of the beauty of God's house.

When the greatest of God's saints tell us clearly that God has not chosen to reveal to us the details of our future life and work in eternity, it is idle for us to pry into the secrets of God. We cannot know any more than God is pleased to unfold.

We should be perfectly content when the apostle tells us, "It hath not yet appeared what we shall be." How we shall know God and love Him for all eternity, how we will carry on and converse with the angels and the saints, how we will feel towards our friends or relatives who have not won their crown, how we shall be perfectly and eternally happy--these are questions for the, future. We are like men regarding the reverse side of a beautiful tapestry and seeing nothing but an unmeaning medley of numberless stitches and knots. But we know that if we are faithful to the end, we will one day behold the beautiful design, of God's own framing, on the other side of the fabric.

But as in every other mystery of Christianity, the hereafter, with its obscurity and darkness, is also a revelation of truth and light. As St. John tells us: In heaven, we shall see God face to face, and be like to him.

The essential joy of the blessed in heaven consists in seeing God face to face and loving Him perfectly through all eternity-- in enjoying with the purest and most perfect happiness the Beatific Vision. "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God" (Matth. v. 8). "We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then; face to face" (I Cor. xiii. 12).

Human reason of itself can prove the sanction of reward and punishment in the after life. It can demonstrate that the soul does not end with the body, but lives an immortal life of blessing or of curse, according as it has kept or broken the law of God. But the revealed joy of the Beatific Vision is far above the happiness due our human nature. It is a purely supernatural gift of God. Eternal life, says the apostle, is a grace of God (Rom. vi. 23). It makes us "fellow citizens with the saints, . . . domestics of God," "Joint heirs with Christ," sharers in the glory of his throne, his eternal friends (Eph. ii. 19; Rom. viii. 17; Apoc. iii. 21; John xiv. 2). No truth is plainer in the Scriptures than the invisibility of the Uncreated Deity. We have no right by our mere human nature to see God face to face. "No man hath seen God at any time" (John i. 18). God "inhabiteth light inaccessible, whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. vi. 16). When Moses of old desired to see the glory of God, Jehovah told him that to see God face to face was not given to man in this life. " Thou canst not see my face: for no man shall see me and live" (Ex. xxxiii, 20. Compare Deut. iv. 12; I John iv. 12).

St. John tells us that to see God there must needs be some marvelous supernatural change in us. If we are to look not merely upon Our Lord's glorified humanity but to view the Divine Essence itself, we must become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. i. 4), we must "be like to him" (I John iii. 2).

This supernatural quality or special divine operation whereby our minds are enlarged, purified, and strengthened to enjoy the glory of the divine nature instead of being overwhelmed by its majesty, is called by the Church the light of glory. It is the culminating grace of the thousands that God showers upon His children from the time He first gave them the divine help to believe and to hope. It is the eternal grace of the love of God which will endure for ever, when the faith that acknowledged it and the hope that longed for it shall be no more.

Even in this life, we can see everywhere around us the traces of the beauty, the goodness, and the truth of the most high God. How many have realized His beauty when they saw the sun rise glorious at dawn from the top of the snowcapped mountains, or descend in ruddy glow, tipping the surrounding clouds with all the colors of the rainbow? How many have felt His goodness when in their hour of contentment they have thanked Him for the blessing of a true wife, a grateful child, a faithful friend, a sorrowful Confession, a loving Communion? How many have received a glimpse of His eternal truth when they entered the haven of the Catholic Church after the storms of error and unbelief, and learned to love the wisdom of God in a St. Paul, a St. John, a Francis de Sales, or a Philip Neri?

And yet, these were only "glimpses through a glass," as the apostle calls them. They were merely the glimmering rays of beauty, goodness, and truth which shone from on high through the thick mists of this world's error and sin.

In the kingdom of Heaven, we shall no longer see Him by means of His word and works, as revealed in the universe, the Sacred Scripture, the Church and the saints, but we shall gaze into the Divine Essence itself, and see, as in a spotless mirror, created things, and the eternal truths. We will begin to fathom--and all eternity will not suffice for the task--the impenetrable depths of the mysteries of God--the trinity, the incarnation, the redemption, the love, the mercy, the justice, the power, the eternity of God. We shall then learn the reason of suffering and labor, we shall realize the mercy of eternal punishment, we shall see the wisdom of the marvelous distribution of God's graces--in a word, we shall be happy in viewing all things from the viewpoint of God.

Some non-Catholic writers have ridiculed what they call the scholastic concept of heaven. Just as Mohammed, they say, pictured a sensual paradise, or the pagans framed gods after their own image and likeness, so the medieval schoolmen, addicted wholly to contemplation, made the happiness of heaven consist solely in the joy of intellectual contemplation.

But such an objection at once proves that these men have never taken the trouble to read any of the authors they despise on mere traditional prejudice. For Catholic theologians of the Middle Ages and today point out carefully, that the Beatific Vision implies not merely the perfect satisfaction of the intellect, but also the perfect satisfaction of the will; not merely the perfection of the soul, which becomes like to God, but also of the body, which becomes like the body of the risen Christ (I Cor. xv.); not merely a dry thinking about God, but the perfect possession of God for all eternity by every faculty of man.

What do we mean by seeing a friend? We go to see him because we love him and enjoy the pleasure of his company. Should that love turn to hatred, his very presence becomes distasteful and a positive pain to us. So the devout soul sees God because it loves God perfectly, and finds its perfect contentment in His eternally blessed presence. For the same reason the unrepentant sinner, dying in the voluntary hatred of God, finds God's presence a positive pain, and shuns it forever in the despair of hell.

The soul possessed of the Beatific Vision is necessarily blessed with a perfect and eternal happiness.

There is an innate longing in every soul for happiness, because God has created it for Himself. Too often man seeks it where it cannot be found. In seeking to build his palace of happiness, he generally lays the foundation in the riches of the world, which seem at first sight able to procure every desire of the human heart. On this foundation he erects every kind of sensual and intellectual pleasure; love, friendship, health, the pride of place, glory of this world, the honor and respect of his fellows. Has he attained true happiness? By no means, for in one day, whirlwind of misfortune overturns his palace of pleasure and buries him in its ruins.

Has he acquired a fortune of millions? He is robbed of it in one day's wild speculation, or his health is so shattered that his life is nothing but a living death. Has he a happy and peaceful family? In one day, the devil enters that household, and lo, a loving wife becomes untrue, a daughter marries a worthless scoundrel, or a son becomes a drunkard. Has he many friends? In time of need they desert him and sell his friendship, like Judas, for thirty pieces of silver. Is he honored by the world with its highest places of trust? One false step, and those that yesterday shouted their hosannas will be the first to clamor for his undoing.

Indeed every new desire of the heart that is satisfied is merely the beginning of another that craves satisfaction. We are like the traveller that for the first time attempts to climb the summit of a very high mountain. After great stress of labor he has reached a rugged height only to find himself encased in a prison of great walls. On and on he goes to what he deems the topmost peak, but on reaching it he finds that there are others higher still. Down again he climbs to ascend once more, only to be again deceived. What a true picture of the lives of men!

In Heaven, every true desire shall find its perfect satisfaction, and every evil shall cease to exist forevermore. There will be perfect rest and peace for body and soul. The poor " shall no more hunger nor thirst, neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat" (Apoc. vii. 16). The sick and sorrowing shall be strong and happy, for " God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more" (Apoc. xxi. 4). The curse of sin. and the dark night of struggle and temptation shall disappear, for " there shall be no curse any more, and night shall be no more" (Apoc. xxii. 3-5). The devil's power will be utterly broken, the flesh will no longer rebel against the spirit, the world of wicked men and women will be utterly forgotten.

How often did the eyes of the martyrs dying for Christ in the midst of most cruel torments look behind the veil, to take comfort in the peace of the City of God! How often have the noblest of the saints been wrapped in ecstasy as they beheld "the glory of the Lord with open face" (2 Cor. iii. 18)! How often a weary pilgrim in this valley of tears has struggled on despite the bitterest temptations towards the rest of his father's house!

"One drop of this happiness," a great saint tells us, "if it fell into hell, would at once convert the misery of the damned into joy and delight." "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever" (Ps. lxxxiii. 5). "They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure. For with thee is the fountain of life; and in thy light we shall see light" (Ps. xxxv. 9, 10).

It is, however, the teaching of the Council of Florence that although all the blessed shall be perfectly happy, still every one shall be rewarded according to their degree of merit. Nothing is more clearly taught in the Sacred Scriptures. Our Saviour tells us that He will "render to every man according to his works " (Matt, xvi. 27). It seems natural to suppose that the saint who practices the heroic self-denial of a St. Paul, or the heroic poverty of St. Francis Assisi, will obtain more glory before the throne of God than that simple good housewife who saves her soul after yielding many and many a time to worldliness. " He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings" (2 Cor. ix. 6).

Protestants as a rule deny this, on account of their false teaching on merit and the efficacy of good works. They also appeal to the parable of the householder (Matt. xx. 1-16). But Our Saviour merely wished to bring out the fact "that the reward of eternal life corresponds not to the length of time a man has labored, but to the work he has accomplished" (Maldonatus). Our Saviour had in mind the Jews, who, proud of their position as God's chosen people, were murmuring now that He was putting the alien Gentiles on the same footing as themselves. The question of the quality or inequality of reward in an after life is not even hinted at.

Another common difficulty of today is the doubt that seems to arise even in the minds of some Christians: Will not the joys of heaven be without weariness and boredom? They picture the blessed as immersed in mere dreamy contemplation, or chanting in dull monotonous round the praises of God.

But is it not altogether unreasonable to suppose that the Infinite Intelligence, Beauty and Love, could fail to satisfy the aspirations and longings of our minds and hearts? As well say that we could exhaust the ocean by drinking its waters as dream of exhausting the treasures of eternal happiness that God has prepared for us.

It is perfectly true that pleasure produces satiety in this life, but that can readily be accounted for. Sinful pleasure eventually causes disgust and ennui, for our hearts were made for something higher and nobler; intellectual pleasure is often so exacting in its demands that it wearies us exceedingly, just as the body becomes fatigued from too much physical exercise.

But in heaven no unhappiness is possible, because sin, the origin of it, is absolutely banished. "There shall not enter into it anything defiled" (Apoc. xxi. 27). No weariness or annoyance is possible, because God gives us the sustaining help of His own infinite power and love. All the desires of mind and will and heart will be eternally gratified. Why then question, simply because we cannot form an adequate concept of the manner in which God will satisfy them?

Sursum Corda be your motto, then, beloved brethren. Lift up your hearts to the glory and happiness that await you in the palace of the King. The true lover thinks constantly of the beloved. It was the thought of the plenty in his father's house that first roused the prodigal to a sense of his degradation. It was the vision of paradise that changed Saul, the persecutor of the Christians, into Paul, the great Apostle of Jesus Christ.

The true lover longs ardently for the presence of the beloved: "As the hart panteth after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O God" (Ps. xli. i, 2). The desire "to be dissolved" and to be with God (Phil. i. 23) has ever burned in the hearts of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. They knew that nothing but God could give true rest and peace to their souls; that their longing for truth, goodness, beauty, and love was too intense to be satisfied by aught created; that this life was but an imperfect, humdrum existence, unless its motive was divined by the glory of the life to come. Death to God's true servants is merely a door into their Father's house, a gate into the King's city. Sickness, sorrow, and labor are merely the passports for entrance.

The true lover is willing to do all things for the beloved. The faithful follower of Christ finds every burden easy, because love spurs him on. He knows that " the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away" (Matt. xi. 12). He knows that the one who hateth his life in the world keepeth it unto life eternal (John xii. 25). He knows that "through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts xiv. 21). No sacrifice is too great, no sorrow too bitter, no labor too trying, no poverty too burdensome, no temptation too vehement --all are gladly accepted as crosses, needed to win the crown incorruptible (I Cor. ix. 25).

With love as the motive, and the kingdom of God as the end of your striving, let the world's standards alone. Men may pity you for your ill health, look down upon you for your poverty, and avoid you for your over great sorrow, esteeming your life madness, and your death without honor, but God has numbered you among his children, and your lot will be eternal happiness among his saints (Wisdom v. 4, 5).



If even a feeble glimpse of the eternal glory of God, as it manifested itself at the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Thabor, appeared so enchanting to Peter that he at once would give up the world and live forever upon that hallowed mountain, what bliss must it be to behold the full splendor of heaven, to realize its full meaning, to taste its delights, to possess its bliss without fear of ever losing it again! St. Paul assures us that eye hath not seen, neither hath the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love Him. It is not my intention to describe to you heaven in all its splendor, for it would be impossible for me to do so. In attempting to picture to you the blissful abode of the elect, my words will be quite insufficient to do justice to my subject. I can depict but a feeble image of it, and you must draw your own conclusions as to the immensity and nature of heaven. Suffice it to say, that it is the truest good, the supreme and greatest of all good, because the glory of heaven consists chiefly in beholding God, in loving and praising Him.

The perfect happiness of the soul, so says St. Augustine, consists in possessing the fulness of its proper desire. This possession engenders peace and satisfaction. In this world, we can never be really happy, because either we do not have what we desire, or because we do not desire that which we should desire. As long as we remain in this place of exile, visible creation cannot conduce to our permanent happiness, or to the supreme accomplishment of our perfection; but the moment we pass across the threshold of the heavenly paradise, what blessed purity of the will, what peace to the senses, what jubilant rapture shall we experience! When our intelligence has been enabled to understand the divine mysteries, it will realize how the three Persons constitute the Most Holy Trinity: how the Father generated the Son without being greater than the Son; how the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son without being inferior to them in any sense. It will see the marvelous union of the Divine and human natures in the one Divine Person of Jesus Christ.

The blessed soul will behold in God infinite goodness and beauty, which will fill the soul with infinite delight, admiration, rapture, and love. Oh, sweet rapture of a blessed, God-loving soul! This soul loves in supreme happiness, with the most ardent love that will ever continue; for by losing all thought of itself it knows of nothing further to desire, nothing to wish, can think of no other good except the One it loves. It loves, but with a perfectly blissful love, because it finds every gratification in the one supreme Good whom it loves. This love, says St. Augustine, is the only air which those inexpressibly blessed souls breathe, the sole substance of their existence. And who could describe it!

When the soul enters paradise it will exclaim: My faith taught that the joys of heaven would be full and complete. But oh, rapture, my expectation could picture only a feeble image, a shadow, of that which I here in reality see and possess! Blessed be those sufferings endured upon earth in resignation to the Divine will Hallowed be that labor, those penitential works! Blessed in particular be my most gracious God who purchased this glory for me at the price of His passion, who assisted me, with His powerful grace, guided my actions, and granted to my good works their merit!

And this infinite and never-ending bliss is offered to all of us. Yes, dear Christians, you and I can, and should, gain heaven. All that is required is the fulfilling of the conditions under which God has promised it to us. It suffices on our part that we seek it earnestly, that we desire it. It is the reward of the work, the price and the crown of the righteousness, the recompense of the combat.

And now let us consider what we are really doing to merit such a magnificent reward. Alas, the lives of many Christians are little in accord with the law of God. Small are their efforts to attain the crown of the righteous, the salvation for which they were created. Does it not seem that some Christians seem more anxious to damn than to save their souls? Yes, indeed, it is only too true that many Christians live only for the world; they hanker after everything worldly, and think little, if at all, about heaven and eternal glory.

Dear brethren, think seriously upon this: Heaven is the greatest of all good; but man cannot attain it without working for it. Contemplate the awful words of Jesus Christ: "Many are called, but few chosen." Go to work at once, and earnestly, so that you may be counted among the fortunate number of the chosen ones, and merit the glory of heaven by living a righteous and God-fearing life. Amen.

1. Luke xviii. 18. 2. Matt. xix. 29; xxv. 46; Rom. vi. 22.
3. Aug. de Civ. Dei, lib. 19, c.11.
4. I John ii. 15. 5. I John ii. 17. 6. I Pet ii. 11.
7. Tit. ii. 12, 13. 8. Rom. i. 22.
9. See Aug. de Civ. Dei, iib. 12, cap. 20; lib. 22, ec. 29, 30; de libero arbit. cap. 25; de verb. Domini, serin. 64, & serm. 37, de Sanctis.
10. Acts xiv. 22. 11. 2 Pet. i. II.
12. Matt, v. 3, 20. 13. Luke xxiii. 43.
14. Apoc. xxi. 10; iii. 12. 15. John xiv. 2.
16. Chrysost in 30, cap. ad Theod. lapsum; Aug. de Civ. Dei, lib. 22, cap. 30; Anselm, epist. 2, & de similit c. 47, seq.
17. Apoc. vii. 16. 18. Apoc. xxi. 4.
19. Serm. vi. 4, de verb). Domini & de Symb. ad Catech. lib. 3.
20. John xvii. 3. 21. I John iii, 2.
22. I Cor. xiii. 12.
23. Aug. lib. 13, de Civ. Dei, c. 9.
24. De divin. nom. c. I.
25. Ps. xxxv. 10.
26. Pet. i. 4.
27. Aug. de Civ. Dei, lib. xxii. c. 30.
28. Rom. ii. 10.
29. John xv.14.
30. Matt. xii. 49.
31. Rom. viii. 15, 16.
32. Matt. xxv. 34.
33. Ps. cxxxviii. 17. 34. I Cor. ii. 9. 35. Luke xii. 37.
36. Ps. lxxxiii. I, a.
37. John xiv. 2.
38. 2 Cor. ix. 6.
39. Is. xxxii. 18.