The topic is "good works." But only sort of. Really, what we’re talking about is heaven. We’re talking about “getting to heaven.” And some people think that getting to heaven is about being good. But it's not. So let's be clear on this, right from the beginning, getting to heaven is not about being good.
If you had asked me as a young man in high school, “Do you think you’re going to go to heaven?” I would have quickly replied, “Well, yah, I’m a good person. It’s not like I’ve killed anybody.” But I had a fundamental misunderstanding of what heaven even is.
Heaven isn’t even a place in that sense. Heaven is a relationship. It’s a life of love; it’s the eternal exchange of love between the Father and the Son that is so powerful and real that from that love flows a third person, the Holy Spirit – love personified. In other words, heaven is the Trinity.
And guess what. You can’t earn that relationship. It’s so far above us that there’s no amount of good works we could ever do that would somehow insert us into that divine existence.
It’s an impossible feat on our own. Heaven is a gift. Period. We could never earn it. God opens himself up to us and invites us into the ecstatic explosion of love we call the Trinity. He offers us the gift of divine life not because of the good things we do but – in fact – in spite of all the bad things we’ve done. It’s a gift of his unconditional, merciful love for you.
And we wouldn’t even know that heaven is the Trinity if God hadn’t revealed that to us. We could never work our way towards it because we wouldn’t even know that it existed.
But God didn’t just reveal to us what heaven is, he also revealed to us how we can "get there." He has revealed to us that, by believing in his Son and saying “Yes” to the Holy Spirit in our lives, we enter into communion with Jesus. Have you ever thought about the idea of receiving “communion”?
When we receive the Eucharist at mass, communion is taking place. And what is that? It’s something very similar to what’s been happening in the Trinity for all eternity. See, the Father gives himself to the Son and the Son receives the gift of the Father, and then the Son returns that love perfectly to the Father by giving himself back. This is love, and so from that exchange eternally flows the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit: divine life and love.
Keeping that in mind, Jesus opens the door for us to share in this relationship. In the Eucharist, Jesus images the Father to us by offering his life – everything that he is – first to the Father, but then to us, in love. “This is my body, given up for you.”
When we receive Holy Communion, we’re being called to image Jesus in this heavenly exchange by giving our own lives back to God with that same spirit of loving gratitude. And when we do, the Holy Spirit is born into our own living relationship with God.
By entering into communion with Jesus, we are born into, and live out of, a heavenly existence of divine life and love.
That’s our faith. But it doesn’t become real for us until we first let that heavenly life in and - only then - let that love flow out of us. It should change everything!
If we’ve truly given ourselves to God in communion with Jesus, he begins to become visible in our daily lives. The life that Jesus lived when he walked the earth begins to live again through us. The
love that he showed others, the life that he lived as a gift for the life of the world, starts to take shape in the things that we do – in our actions, and in our words.
The life of heaven starts to flow out of us. We start living the life of heaven, now! We don’t have to wait until we die to be in heaven. That’s not the plan at all. We don’t go to heaven, heaven comes to us. And through us, heaven breaks into the world.
What we begin to see is a twofold relationship with God taking shape. It begins in an intimate reception of the great gift of God’s love. We say “Yes” to his invitation and give ourselves to him. We enter into communion and let him begin to live with us. That’s the first movement of the relationship.
But then, the Holy Spirit starts to flow out of us. This is the second dimension of the relationship. We begin to see the image of God in our neighbor. We begin to see the gift of God living in us and we complete that Trinitarian exchange of love by giving that gift away to others. And as we love others, and receive their love in turn (hopefully), the image of Trinitarian love is made visible in
our earthly relationships. Heaven touches earth. Earth becomes heaven, at least for those who love God.
So the relationship is twofold. It begins in gratefulness to the gift of God’s love, in the openness of our hearts to receive that love. And it extends into the heavenly love of Christ we can now show our neighbor.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he says “in everything you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.” When St. Paul says to do everything in the name of Jesus, he’s telling us that we are now extensions of Christ in the world. In other words, the Church is on his mission. We share in his mission to conquer the world of sin and death through the revelation of God’s love. You are on Jesus’ mission.
And, fear not, we’re not alone as we carry out this mission. We are in fact living in communion with Jesus, and through him we are also in communion with the entire Church, the Body of Christ. And that is what makes it possible to spread heaven wherever we go.
Again, what is heaven? It’s the gift of divine life and love, which we are now so blessed to be able to give since we ourselves have received it. And when we open our lives to the power of the Holy Spirit, we change the world.
Now the real work begins. The world is in desperate need of love in all the forms it might take. Whether it’s through caring for the poor, or comforting the afflicted, or simply taking out the trash without putting up a fuss when our parents ask us to help, we can show the world the love of Jesus through our actions.
It begins with small acts but, when we make a habit of saying yes to God in the little things, we become powerful witnesses to the life and love of God in the big things as well.
Jesus wants to perform miracles in your life. He wants your whole life to become a great sign of God’s love in the world. He wants you to live the life of heaven now. Jesus is on a mission to change everything, and he invites you to unite with his bride, the Church, and to be a part of that saving work.
This is his plan for the Church. And this is his plan for you.