Citizenship in heaven

We are inspired to remember that this Cloud of Witness who come from all nations and peoples, young and old, all shapes and sizes, are alive in
our midst as witnesses and intercessors.

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Throughout the month of November and well into Advent the Word of God offers ample opportunity to contemplate our ultimate destiny as human beings, but especially as Christians. We can tweak light and darkness for an hour with daylight saving time, but we cannot halt the advance of time marching inevitably into the arms of eternity. More starkly, the Psalmist assures us, “who can live and not see death? No one can escape the grasp of the grave.” (Psalm 89:48)

Since March the pandemic has hammered home this reality with the loss of normalcy, the loss of life, and, tragically on far too many occasions, the enforced separation and isolation from loved ones at death. Without diminishing the suffering and agony on all fronts, the church faithfully proclaims the undying hope in the knowledge that all creation, times and seasons, and eternal life to follow, belong to the Lamb of God, the crucified and resurrected Lord. This is wonderfully pronounced as the Paschal Candle is prepared at the Easter Vigil.

Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega. His are the times and ages. To Him be glory and dominion through all ages of eternity. Amen.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

On the feast of All Saints the church proclaims the power of memory, the potential in the present moment, and the hope of future glory. The past and future converge in St. John’s vision of timelessness in the Book of Revelation that reveals the saints in glory, a multitude too numerous to count, robed in white, their garments washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

We are inspired to remember that this Cloud of Witness who come from all nations and peoples, young and old, all shapes and sizes, are alive in our midst as witnesses and intercessors. This is the parade of champions of which we boast who hold out to us the ultimate prize of our citizenship in heaven.

In the traditional imagery that extends back to the New Testament (Ephesians 6), we are the church militant who are to fight the good fight of faith and finish the race (1Timothy 6). There are many ways to express our dignity and destiny in the Lord, and on the Feast All Saints we heard from the first letter of John in the New Testament. “We are God’s children now. What we shall later be has not yet come to light. We know that when it does we will be like God because we shall see the Lord as he is. Meanwhile, for those of us who hold onto this hope are to keep ourselves pure.”

What exactly are the attitudes and actions that characterize God’s children in this world, Jesus unfolds throughout the Sermon on Mount (Matthew Chap. 5-7), beginning with the Beatitudes, the Gospel for All Saints. His words will echo for all time. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, the meek, the merciful, the sorrowful, the hungry and thirsty for justice, those persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and all who endure persecution, hostility rejection for the sake of the name.”
Phew, how blessed can one be? Jesus doesn’t follow it up by saying just hang in there for this too will pass. “Rather, rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

As usually is the case with the wisdom of God, we have to immerse ourselves in the Lord’s words, his eternal wisdom, over and again, to discover or to rediscover the mercy, peace and fulness of life that he promises, now and forever.

For months now the political world has engulfed us in messaging and with divergent directions for our society. Through it all we know that our citizenship requires our involvement at the ballot box and much more, by our commitment to the common good every day of the year. Without a doubt, at times, our citizenship in heaven is going to conflict with our citizenship on earth, and in those moments we will know where our loyalty abides. I believe that the values revealed by the Lord for all citizens of heaven would also be a blessing for the world and our nation. In season and out of season, we are to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and leaven for the bread of daily life. May the allotted time we have in this world be a gift for God’s glory.