“For unto thy faithful, O Lord, life is changed not taken away: and the abode of this earthly sojourn being dissolved, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven.”—Preface for the Mass for the Dead
The mystery of our earthly human life certainly includes our passing from this world to be judged by God. We will be rewarded according to our merit or punished for our sins. Every time we see a friend or relative die, this reality is placed before our soul. As members of the Church Militant, we must ask ourselves the question: How do I avoid eternal darkness and the pains of hell, and how do I enter into the dwelling place of God filled with charity and light?
God has no desire to send our souls to hell, but if we refuse to follow Him to His glory by willfully rejecting His invitation to become a true child of God, He respects our decision. It is not God, but the revolted soul that chooses to be in the company of the damned that dwell in darkness, hatred and injustice in the bowels of hell. “O God, Who wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he be converted and live...”
The most effective way of avoiding evil is to practice good. The best way to avoid hell is to desire to go to heaven. Our catechism tells us that we were created to know, love and serve God here on earth and to be eternally happy with Him in heaven. He thought of us from all of eternity and has prepared a place for us in heaven. He wishes to dwell in us and He wants His very Being to become our dwelling place. He desires to communicate to the human soul His goodness, beauty and glory. Since God is love, He is the gift of self to the creature that He loves. The reason that He created us was to be able to share His love with us, but He asks that we freely love Him in return. This means to live our lives according to His will.
The love that we have for God, according to a Carthusian author, is the means to spiritually move our soul towards God. When we consider the love that He has for us, we take our rest in God. To love God and to be loved by Him is the eternal happiness that we were created for. By considering the death of St. Benedict we can observe the same movement towards God and rest in God. In the church of the monastery, being helped to stand by two of his disciples, he gives his soul into the hands of God. Two monks in different places had a vision of the saint’s death. They saw a road leading to heaven, covered with precious carpets and lined with lamps. The lamps that show the way represent faith and the carpeted road walked upon shows his acts of charity, the desire to go to heaven shows the necessary hope to arrive. The soul’s journey to God is very similar. Without God as his guide and strength, it would be impossible for the soul to dwell in God.
The essential beatitude of the soul, according to St. Augustine, is to perfect its two faculties of knowing and loving. In heaven we will know God as He is, face to face and we will love Him without any reserve and with a love that cannot be divided.
Here below, our intelligence is wounded by ignorance, which makes us struggle to grasp the hidden truths of nature. Our ideas of God are weaker and even more obscure. In heaven, by the gift of a divine light, we will contemplate, without veil, the beauty of God. We will fully grasp the object of our intelligence, which is Divine Truth. All of the questions that our mind could imagine will be perfectly answered. We will see the majesty of the Supreme Being of God, face to face. We will see and understand what sanctity is by contemplating the source of all sanctity. We will understand the justice, wisdom, bounty, and mercy of God by simply looking upon His Face. We will see the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose word we have believed and to whom we entrusted our souls. We will see the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of love, sent to sanctify our souls. By participating in the very thoughts of God Himself, we will truly become a child of God, dwelling in our Creator.
And we will love Him with all of our strength, heart and mind. Our heart will be pure, possessing the one and only object of our desire, God Himself. We will be inseparable from God and all those that dwell in Him. Our love will be perfectly satisfied without losing its strength of desire for all of eternity, rejoicing in full possession of goodness. The intellect will rejoice in the full knowledge of perfect truth. We will rejoice in God forever in this eternal dwelling prepared for us in heaven.