The whole congregation raised their hands enthusiastically. The priest looked around the church for a while and eventually noticed, in the third row on the left, a man sitting there with his hands on his lap. He was impressed at the humility of the man. "How humble," he thought, "not to presume that he will go to Heaven, but no doubt striving to be there some day".
He asked the congregation to lower their hands and then he asked the man: "Why did you not raise your hand?"
The man replied: "I'm not sure I want to go to Heaven if they'll all be there!"
And that's the point I suppose. We all believe that we are going to Heaven some day. We all feel that we are worthy enough to be there. After all, we go to church on Sundays, we say our prayers, sometimes, we are generally good people; so why shouldn't we be there? Even people who do not believe in God, when asked whether they'd prefer to go to Heaven or hell they choose to go to Heaven.
We treat Heaven, however we might visualise it to be, as a luxury hotel where we will be welcomed with open arms, and indeed the current residents will be honoured to have us there. We look forwards to spending an eternity with God, without even considering whether He wants to spend an eternity with us. We judge ourselves according to our standards and forget that God has His own standards as to whom He will welcome with open arms.
"Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in Heaven wants them to do." Matthew 7:21
In other words - There are no parrots in Heaven.
Despite what some people might think, that there are animals in Heaven; and that they'll be re-united with their pets one day. Personally, I hope there are no animals up there; because I'd hate to come face to face with the Sunday roast admonishing me for having eaten it. But I digress.
I am not one of those people who believes we have to work hard and strive to enter Heaven; and that it is all to do with good works and sacrifices and we enter Heaven on our own merit.
Of course, our actions and behaviours do have a bearing as to whether we are worthy to spend an eternity with our loving Creator; but there's more to it than that.
If throughout our lives we choose not to believe in the existence of God. If we choose not to believe that Jesus Christ is His Son, who died for us. And if we maintain that belief all through life, in the arrogant stance that we are correct. We cannot expect to find ourselves welcomed in Heaven. How could we go to a place we do not believe exists and be with an Almighty Creator whose existence we have denied to the last?
What is the point of going to church regularly and forever praying when we do not even notice Lazarus starving at our gate?
What is the point in proclaiming we are Christians and we believe in God when our behaviour bears no resemblance to God's love as personified by Christ? Even the devil believes in God, but his actions are hardly to be emulated.
What is the point of lighting candles and placing flowers in church, serving on church committees and doing all sorts of other voluntary work if our life-style is hardly Christ-like?
So if our prayers, our devotions, our belief in God and good works by themselves are not enough; what should we do to enter Heaven?
Let us remember that we cannot buy our way into Heaven. All our good deeds, prayers, lit candles, flowers and even giving money to charity will not by themselves open Heaven's gate for us. What is missing from our actions is love.
God loves us so much that His invitation to Heaven is open to anyone who loves Him back and trusts Him in all things.
Our relationship with God should be a one-to-one relationship, built on love, trust and respect. Not on fear that we might not meet His demanding standards to enter His Kingdom. If fear there is, it should be the fear of hurting Him and disappointing Him by our behaviour. Very much as a good son would fear hurting his parents by his actions.
FATHER FRANCIS MAPLEFather Francis Maple O.F.M Cap. in one of his sermons makes a good point about our relationship with God by referring to a leaning tree. Here's what he says:
I think of a life as a tree. If a tree leans in one direction when it dies it will fall in that direction. It is not going to fall in the opposite direction. So, too, with our lives. If all the time we are leaning towards God, very likely, with God's grace we shall fall into His arms when we die. But if our lives never point to God, it is very likely that when we die we shall die in enmity with God.
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