Monday, November 8, 2010

Heaven

I usually prepare my CCE lesson early in the week, preparing handouts or activities Thursday night or Friday, and then do a quick re-read/refresher on Saturday. But for one reason or another, I left this week's lesson until the last minute – taking my first look at it on Saturday night. After praying, I opened the book and began my outline for the lesson on Grace and Heaven.

As each student arrived in the classroom, they received a blank piece of paper and were asked to draw a picture of heaven. Once they were told that there is no “right” answer, just draw what they imagine heaven is like, they settled down and got right to work. One student drew God sitting in a beach chair at sunset, several drew houses, castles in the clouds, a kingdom, God with their pets or other loved ones. All students drew a happy place with bright colors. Their work reminded me how the Bible describes the vision of heaven in similar ways… the “kingdom of God,” “a paradise,” “my Father’s house,” “a banquet,” and “light”.

We talked about Grace; how grace is a gift from God of free and undeserved help. Grace is sharing in the love of God, participating in the life of God. Grace is supernatural, meaning it is known only through faith. Actual grace comes from the Holy Spirit and helps us overcome temptation, while we receive sanctifying grace at Baptism to heal our soul and make us holy.

I invited students to share their pictures of heaven and we worked our way toward the definition of heaven – a life of eternal happiness with God. The GREATEST happiness we can imagine in the full and complete union with God’s never-ending love. This is our destiny.

After CCE my family took our seats for Mass. As my older daughter performed her duties as an altar server, I proudly considered how today was both the anniversary of her Baptism as well as the completion of her first year altar serving. Because our CCE director likes to coordinate the lesson with the Readings, I wasn’t surprised that the Word also dealt with the concept of heaven and everlasting life.

However, as the homily concluded, it dawned on me that today is also the six month anniversary of my Godson’s tragic death. Looking back it became clear that today’s lesson, combined with the songs, readings, and Psalms used in today’s Mass could not be dismissed as mere coincidence.

I choked on the words of the song: Take me home, to your dwelling place, in your sweet embrace, ready to hold me in your arms. Take me home, to your loving eyes, with you alone I’ll rise, singing forever, in your arms, take me home.

Nick, we miss you more than you could possibly know; it breaks our hearts to not have you with us here in our Earthly lives. Your death caused great suffering to all of us affected by your short life, though we now struggle to find comfort in the knowledge that you exist in communion with God. You have the pure joy that comes with eternal happiness, while we must rely on our faith to recognize God’s grace in our lives, knowing that we will one day see you again.
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