There’s nothing ‘up there’ about heaven!

WelCom September 2022 Fr James Lyons Every culture has a ‘creation story’ attributing power to what are called the ‘gods’, to explain the origin of things and our part in it…

WelCom September 2022

Fr James Lyons

Every culture has a ‘creation story’ attributing power to what are called the ‘gods’, to explain the origin of things and our part in it all.

Sixty years ago, human beings became space travellers. The first was Russian, Yuri Gagarin. He returned to Earth and scored some points for atheists, saying he didn’t see any ‘God’ up there!

The fascination with the source of our existence and whether or not there is a Creator or God, took another step last month with images from Nasa’s Webb telescope suggesting insights into the origin of the stars and galaxies formed over 13 billion years ago!

All this new knowledge doesn’t really help. It only makes us feel even smaller and totally not in control!

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals first images of previously unseen universe – cosmic cliffs, glittering landscape of star birth. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI.

The simplest approach for humans across the centuries has been to put the ‘gods’ in their own realm, separate from us; the ‘gods’ in charge, our destiny determined by our behaviour.

But we humans are proud creatures and like to be the ones in charge; so there has been a long history of ‘takeover bids’. We have tended to forget or deny our ‘dependence’ and act as though we are indeed the ones with all the power.

A better approach is to appreciate that ‘heavenly things’ relate to love which, once begun, lasts forever. It is the earthly part of us that withers and dies. The God that came to our human world in Jesus came to open our eyes to see the treasure within us: the creative spark of God’s loving presence.

Ours is a wonderful faith. We don’t have to search in the shadows or struggle with fears about what happens next – we just have to strengthen our awareness that we already live in the presence of God. The love we feel within us is the seed bed of our eternity.

The terror that currently grips our world is trying to push love aside, to make it feel impotent in the face of hatred and prejudice. Terror cannot triumph because, for those bonded by faith in Jesus Christ, heaven and earth are one.

Our baptismal liturgy endorses this. The newly baptised person is dressed in new clothes, having ‘put on Christ’, becoming a new creation. Heaven and earth combine, the baptised entering the reign of God, eliminating the distinction between heaven and earth, even between life and death.

There is no need to search for God in the heavens. The promise of Jesus to be always with us should remove any doubt concerning God’s location.

Nor must we waste time worrying about where ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ are. We just need to be true to ourselves, to be there for each other, to celebrate our dependence by trusting and living faithfully. Then we will have found the recipe for Paradise!

Well-known author, Joy Cowley, has a book called Made For Love. It’s a series of spiritual reflections for couples. A recurring theme is the spiritual essence of love with its beautiful energy to create, to bring people together, to heal, refresh and restore.

Joy writes that ‘Love has no political structure’. Love’s strength is ‘being true to oneself’. With typical simplicity she says, ‘God does not make cardboard hearts’. How great to know we’re not recyclable!