Reflection: Heaven all the way to heaven

By Father Chris Thomas

I met Pam many years ago. Pam was a real character. Her laugh was louder, and her tears more heartfelt, than anyone else’s. She had a big heart and would help anyone. If she had food or drink, she shared it. When she had money, someone's hard-luck story would take it from her.

Pam was baptised Catholic and, despite her mother's difficult battle with alcohol, they attended church. She would sometimes talk to me about her faith. One day she told me that she had known much love in her life. I was quite surprised when she said that, but she said she’d known the love of a mother who cuddled her on the couch and made hot tea and toast dripping with butter for them to share. She had experienced love in the care and concern of those who tried to help her and, because she had known human love, she said that she knew that God loved her and would always be there for her. It was a Gospel moment as I looked into the eyes of this wonderfully compassionate, broken woman and heard the truth from her lips of the love of God.

Sadly, for many people their faith isn’t about a love relationship with God but is a relationship of fear as they try to appease God with sacrifices and offerings. Yet Jesus came to show us that the heart of the good news is that there is no need to be afraid. This God is father and is love. I think the transformative moment in our lives comes when we begin to know that we are loved by God without exception, whether we be black or white, gay or straight, whether we have mental health problems or not, whether we are physically disadvantaged or not.

When we really hear that truth deep within, we are no longer constrained by what people think about us or the games that people play. We don’t have to buy into the systems and structures that control the world because we don’t need them in the same way that everyone else does. Our security lies in the truth that we’re loved.

Living in that relationship is an invitation to live in heaven now. It is to live in this world with an attitude of trusting and hoping and loving and praying. It is about being open to the spirit within. It is about loving and respecting the world and everyone in it. It is about living each day, each moment, in a spirit of gratitude, caught up in love and empowered to live. If we lived, as Jesus did, believing that we were loved by God and spent our lives allowing that love to work through us, to help others believe in love, then we could transform the world.