• Fr. van Zee

The Raising of Lazarus and Heaven

In today’s Gospel (Jn 11:1-45) we hear of the raising of Lazarus which is the foreshadowing or prefiguration of what Christ wants to do for us. He raised Lazarus whom He loved (Jn 11:5, 36). He will raise us, whom He loves, if we die in His love, that is, in Sanctifying Grace. By this grace He gives us the precious gifts of faith, hope, and love in us. He wants to put His spirit within us. “I will put my spirit in you that you may live” (Ezekiel 37:14). He wants to give us the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is not enough for God that we know Him. It is not enough for Him that we go to heaven, He wants to start heaven now. He wants to give us a foretaste of it in this life so that we can be drawn to Him in all sweetness.

The indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity in the soul in the state of grace is a preparation for the life of heaven. It is a foretaste because it is an intimate union with God. In heaven that union will be radically more intimate. In heaven we will no longer have faith because we will see God face to face. We will no longer hope because all our desires will be fulfilled. We will still love God, but in a radically new way. We will be perfectly united to Him and know that we will never be separated from Him. We will never get tired or bored of Him. After millions of years of contemplating God, we will still find things in Him to rejoice over.

Sometimes people get hung up on heaven being an eternal vision of God. They think, “Doesn’t it get boring?” It never does. In heaven we will regain the joy of the child who always wants to watch the same video and sing the same song over and over again. We will have that same exuberant joy all day every day. It will never be stagnant but always exciting. There will always be new delights and the old ones will never become old to us. G.K. Chesterton said that God is as joy-filled as a child. When someone said that God must be old and bored because He always makes everything in the same way. He always causes the sun to shine and the planets to orbit. Chesterton said that He is like a child who sees something new and incredible and shouts “Do it again! Do it again!” He causes the sun to rise and set everyday not because He is bored but because He is so excited about. He is like the child telling the sun and moon, “Do it again! Do it again!”

Perhaps the best part of heaven will not be seeing God and knowing everything there is to know in God but loving God perfectly. “Not only does each one of the blessed love but he sees himself loved in return both by the Almighty and by every one of the saints. This makes heaven a life of love, and consequently one of perfect happiness.” In this life we desire to love and to be loved. Love is the sunshine of our lives. But, do what we will, it can never get us perfect happiness here below; for when we have at last succeeded in possessing the object after which we so ardently work, we discover in it some imperfections which we had not seen before; and these lessen our happiness. But suppose, even that we are of the few who are as happy as they expected to be, how long with this last? A few years, at most. Then, death, with a merciless hand, tears away from us the objects of our love. Isn’t this the end of all earthly happiness?[1]

Look up to heaven, and there see the blessed in the presence of God. They are as happy today in their love as they were hundreds of years ago and when millions of ages have passed, they will still possess the object of their love, which is the Eternal God.[2]

This is not to say that He is going to make our lives easy. We should expect that there will be difficulties in this life. After all, He allowed Lazarus to die and He will allow us to die but He raised Lazarus back to natural life to show that He would raise those whom He loves to supernatural life. “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin (Rom 6:23), the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Rom 8:10).

God want us to be in heaven. He died on the Cross to save us. St. Augustine “God, who created you without your cooperation will not save you without it.” We must do as He says in order to get there and, yes, there will be suffering along the way but the reward will be greater than anything we can ever imagine and no matter what we suffered here below it will be completely forgotten about the second we step foot into heaven. It will be beyond our wildest imaginings: “Eye has not seen ear has not heard nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9).

[1] The Happiness of Heaven by F.J. Boudreaux [2] Ibid.

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