Reflection by Aidan Troy, C.P.
I’ll always remember the day when waiting at a bus stop, the only other person there asked me to tell him the destination of the next bus. We got into chatting and I asked him if it was his eyesight that gave him need to ask about where a bus was going. He replied with sadness in his voice, ‘I can neither read nor write’. The next bus was the one he needed and there we parted company. But I’ll always remember him.
When I don’t know a destination, I cannot know the way there. To cut to the end of my life, Heaven is my destination but will not be displayed on any bus, train or map. St Augustine’s much quoted words have it right, “our hearts were made for thee, O Lord, and will never rest until they rest in Thee’. How true that is. Nobody can blame the countless millions of people on earth and throughout history who were never aware of this as their ultimate destination.
This is not something that I can claim. We who believe have heard the Word who is Jesus telling us, “I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me.” [John 14:2-3] Nothing could be clearer. Yet, sad to say that often I live as if my destination was not in Heaven but some place on earth.
Some people I know are convinced atheists. They are utterly sincere in their outlook. Eternity is the surprise God has in store for them. This is not ‘pay you back’ time for their life of denial, but to welcome them to their true home. Every person is created in the image and likeness of God and has a trace of the Divine in them. The Jazz musician, Acker Bilk had a huge hit with ‘Stranger on the Shore’. In Heaven there are no strangers but only children of God finding together our true and lasting home. It will be great.
Those of us who have been given the Word of God, can mistake a halt on the way for arrival at the destination. I know that I have regularly done this. I am not proud of this but have tried to learn, even from my sins. God is patient with us.
Being honest, a temptation for a priest is to slip into the error of thinking that I have arrived at the destination for which I was created. Those of us in Holy Orders have received a most special gift. It is only when the priesthood as a gift, a privilege and a call to humble service are forgotten, that clericalism raises its ugly head. We are doing no more than God asks of us.
Likewise, it can be said that marriage will not be a feature in Heaven. This is not because it is not a divinely given vocation, but because at the destination, all will be changed. It is there that we will discover what no eye has seen, ear heard, or has it entered into our minds what God has prepared for those who love Him. Heaven will become the new normal for us.
At the bus stop all those years ago, a humble person admitted that he needed help to identify the way to his destination. Often, so do I! For us there is one way home – Jesus is the Way. He is always availabile to us at every turn on the way when we call to Him. In the Eucharist, in this beautiful world created by God, in the Church and always in the poor and those who have no voice in life, Jesus is with us.
The saving of many of us will be the poor and needy. At the end of life, they will be my ‘ticket’ into the Kingdom – ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did to one of these the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’ [Mt 25:40] Then, clerical titles or societal status will no longer matter; the ‘crucified’ of this earth will be my judges. Thank God, I will no longer be called, ‘Father’, but carry the magnificent title of a ‘Child of God’ basking in God the Father’s glory.
The arrested Mother and her seven sons revealed in the Book of Maccabees are a shining example of knowing where life is going and what matters in the end. That this bravery predates the Resurrection of Jesus, is even more impressive. They knew where they were going. God forgive me for the times I have mistaken a halt on the way for the one true Destination.