Who Goes to Heaven

The three Sundays that followed the Feast of the Ascension placed before us three important mysteries of our faith: The descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church, the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist. Even though these fundamental truths affect us here below, they also remind us of our destiny to be with the Lord in heaven. Just like the apostles on the day of the Ascension, we need to look up to the skies eagerly awaiting our reward in heaven. Because our earthly lives especially here in the US have improved so much in the last few decades, we can be earth-bound and lose sight of our heavenly destiny. We need to remember that we are meant to return to the garden from where we came.

Peggy Noonan, who was a speech-writer for President Ronald Reagan, wrote in Forbes magazine:

...We have lost, somehow, a sense of mystery about us, our purpose, our meaning, our role. Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short' one. We are among the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such -- unhappiness. The reason: if you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness, then if the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you despair."

As soon as we mention heaven, some may ask the inevitable question: “Who goes to heaven?” Or rather, who doesn’t go to heaven? According to me, these queries are both irrelevant and dangerous. They are irrelevant because we cannot know who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. So many Christians waste so much time arguing about this issue. None of us is privy to the passenger list to heaven. As Jesus said to the sons of Zebedee, we may be asked to drink the cup of suffering; but, to sit on His right or on His left, it is the Father’s decision to give. In the same way, God alone decides whether anyone can go to heaven.

These questions are also dangerous because attempts to answer them have given birth to much intolerance on the part of some so-called “religious” people. We must remind ourselves that heaven is not a reward that we merit. None of us deserves to live in unending happiness in God’s house. We do not win heaven by our good behavior or even by our pious practices. Such a perspective of heaven transforms our discipleship into a glorified form of selfishness: We try to be good in order to win some reward. We are called upon to love God because this God loved us first. And because we love Him, we want to live as His children. As Paul would say, we are summoned to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. Besides, if anyone claims to win heaven by their good deeds, they are guilty of the heresy of Pelagianism, condemned by the Church.

When I was a young seminarian, my religious superior was Fr Joseph Murphy, an Irishman from England. He had a great sense of humor. He used to say that we would have three surprises when we get to heaven. The first surprise will be to find that some people we expected to see in heaven are not there. The second surprise will be to find some people in heaven that we did not expect to meet there. Finally, the last surprise will be to find ourselves there.

It is true that we all want to get to heaven. But how do we get there? Jesus said that we will be judged by the way we treat others, especially the poor and the weak. In chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel Jesus gives us a powerful parable. The Lord will put the good on His right and the evil on His left. To the just He will say, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was sick or in prison and you came to visit me.” The path to heaven is simple. It is called loving compassion. What we do for our brothers and sisters, we actually do for Jesus.

Heaven is the place of perfect love. We will be able to love God in the most perfect way we are capable of as humans. We will also be able to receive God’s love fully. In the process, we will enjoy eternal bliss. Our love towards others will also be perfected. While on earth our loving is always tainted and it struggles with sin. We are tempted to be manipulative and controlling even in the way we love. We are tempted to use others for our own advantage. We can be selfish. When we reach heaven, we will be confirmed in grace and will be able to love everyone perfectly, without any fear of sin. If heaven is all about love, then the way to get there is also love. Our life on earth is a dress rehearsal, a practice session to love as Jesus has loved us.

It is in this context that I would like to congratulate all of you for your generosity and loving compassion towards the poor. This year we chose the Parish of the Holy Rosary in Puerto Rico as the recipient of our Lenten almsgiving. You all came through as you always do! We had set a target of $60,000 and you donated more than $85,000. Both Adrienne Timm, the director of our social services ministry, and I met with Catholic Extension and handed them the check. Catholic Extension will oversee the successful completion of the project and ensure the careful use of the funds.

Let us remember that as long we take care of the poor we will enjoy God’s abundant blessings. May our discipleship always make us in Christ-like love!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Phone: (847) 825-7605

Mass Schedule

Monday - Friday

8:30 am - Upper Church


4:30 pm (vigil) - Upper Church


7:30 am - Upper Church

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9:30 am - Gym

10:30 am - Upper Church

12:00 pm - Gym