by Ken Rolheiser
Heaven starts here

Recently I again took part in our family reunion at Queen’s House in Saskatoon, an annual New Year’s gathering of over one hundred, from the ninety-year-olds to new-born. Present also are departed family members in the Communion of Saints.

In an earlier column I said, “Every holy church is a piece of heaven on earth. And when you’re in church, look – you’re already in heaven. When the earth torments you with its hell, hurry to church, go inside, and behold – you have entered paradise” (St Justin Popovic). This is true of our annual gathering.

A nephew shared that here faith is being passed to the younger generations. What started more than fifty years ago in my parent’s humble home is still being shared to strengthen us all. Half of my siblings have joined Mom and Dad and are present as we collectively praise God for all his blessings.

At the birth of Jesus God was enfleshed in Mary’s womb and changed history, literally, from B.C. to A.D. Now this Christ lives in us, in our flesh, and we are changing our history from B.C. to A.D. This realization inspires us at Queen’s House as we gather to start the New Year.

From the youngest to the oldest, we want to be there. We need to be there. Great nieces and nephews have said they would rather be at this gathering for the holidays than at Disney. This gathering of love is a prelude to heaven – like hugging my ninety-one-year-old sister-in-law, who recently had been in hospital, or my niece who had just recovered in hospital.

And we are aware of our mission. Jesus had a mission and so do we. Jesus proclaimed the Good News in Luke 4:18 – I have come to bring the good news to the poor, to tell prisoners they are free, to give sight to the blind… We also have a mission.

We have a restless, creative energy that drives our mission in the world. The Spirit renews our strength, lets us soar like eagles; run and not grow weary. Walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31). And the love from our gathering keeps growing and inspiring us.

I went to see my older brother in a senior’s home. He leans mostly at rest now. His life is largely spent with over sixty years of priestly ministry, some in northern missions. A metaphor came to mind. He is a cypress tree. Leaning now, but still supported by the family of trees around him who hold him up.

Mother earth has nurtured and sustained him through the years. The stand of young cypress trees still keep him from falling. In the end we know that death is right, but we do not go gentle into that good night. (Dylan Thomas).

And we march on. “To refuse to bring light to our neighbour is to bring him darkness” (Norse proverb). Love is the currency of heaven. Let us lay up treasure there. (Matthew 6:20). And we strengthen each other.

We share our stories of vision and little miracles. We share our faith, share the Eucharist and build up the Body of Christ on earth. All are included. Children build lasting friendships with cousins and strangers. We go forth from there to meet our neighbours and continue our mission.

Now is the time to touch God and our fellow man. Our brothers and sisters ache for our love. This is our time to act.  

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