REQUIESCANT IN PACE
What is heavenly joy? The most concise definition of it we can look to find is contained in the Church’s familiar prayer for her dead: “Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.”
Eternal rest is the negative side of it, perpetual light the positive. Of this latter St. Paul has written, quoting the prophet Isaias: “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” (r Cor. ii. 9).
Now, if heaven meant nothing more than eternal rest; that is, lasting and conscious deliverance from all the ills of this weary pilgrimage, would it not even then be worth all that we are called on to pay down for it?
But it means so much more than this; and if even on this earth the good can for a little space so flood our soul with joy, if an enchanting scene or a strain of exquisite music, or the sense of love returned can so melt our hearts as to make us forgetful of all life’s troubles, how will it be, think you, when the Lord of heaven and earth, the Source of all love and all beauty, lays Himself out to make His creatures happy?
May we not be sure that He knows how to do it? Oh, in very truth: “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.”
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seem to die, and their departure was taken for misery, and their going away from us, for utter destruction; but they are in peace, and though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.
“Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded; because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace He hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust He hath received them, and in time there shall be respect had to them.
“The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds (Wis. I-7). Then shall the just stand with great constancy against those that have afflicted them. . . . These, seeing it, shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the suddenness of their unexpected salvation, saying within themselves, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit:—These are they whom he had some time in derision, and for a parable of reproach.
“We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints (Wis. v. /-5). “
HEAVEN, OUR HOME
Naturally enough, the Thessalonians were anxious to learn from the apostle St. Paul what was the Christian teaching about the next world. Where were their beloved dead gone?
The day returned after night, the spring followed winter, the cherry blossom and the apple bloom came back year by year, the skylark and the nightingale were heard when the snow was gone, and the olive and vine put forth their wealth of tender leaves, but alas! the long procession of their dear dead marched slowly to the tomb never to return.
In their anxiety they turned to their Father in God. And he answers them in clear and definite words: “We will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others who have no hope.
“For if we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again, even so them who have slept in Jesus will God bring with Him. Wherefore comfort ye one another with these words.”
Look up and realize that in the land very far off there is peace—a peace which comes from the harmony of order, life, and energy. See its symbol, not in the sluggish waters of a pool or a canal, but in the force of the majestic river.
See it, not in the pathless arid desert, or on the rocky height, but in the beautiful valley where flowers fill the air with sweetness and fruit is ripening.
See it, not in the harp unstrung and put to rest, but in the energy and harmony of a perfect orchestra pouring forth a flood of glorious music.
Contemplate life with no shadow of death, health with no token of decay, strength with no sign of weakness, the eternal life, angelic, seraphic, godlike in a multitude of peace ever abiding
—Bernard Vaughan, S.J.: Loaves and Fishes.
Foolish, indeed, are we, not to reflect oftener on the eternal home awaiting us, whose joys will never pall and whose transcendent bliss is everlasting.
When we find it hard to bear “the whips and scorns of time,” let us encourage ourselves with the thought that the longest life is but brief, that no matter how storm-tossed our barque, we have but to keep courageously on our course, confident that He who launched our frail skiff on the seething waters, will guide it safely to the Eternal Shore, where, with gracious words of welcome on His dear lips, He will receive us into His Father’s Home.
Then joy and rest shall be ours for evermore. God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and death shall be no more, nor mourning nor crying nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things have passed away.
“From our homes will come the leaders of our country and of the world. A sound economic and social life and enduring world peace will be built from the materials our families supply. You must make every effort to develop the quality of your home life. If you cherish spiritual values, you will bind together domestic ties, for, as a parent, you play a leading part in rebuilding the ideals of a nation through its home and civic life. To a large degree, you form human character.” – Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik, The Catholic Family Handbook, Painting by Richard Sohn (1834 – 1912, German)
We should get used to extracting from ordinary day-to-day life whatever can increase our joy, rest, and legitimate satisfaction, and whatever can fill us with optimism. There is a thrill of joy and satisfaction in the thought that we are the objects of God’s love and can ourselves sincerely love Him…
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