“LORD, IT IS GOOD FOR US TO BE HERE!”
(Gospel of Sunday. Matt. xvii. 1, 9)
Let us labour during the remainder of our lives to gain Heaven. The Saints did but little to gain Heaven. St. Augustine said that to gain the eternal glory of Paradise we should willingly embrace eternal labour. The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come. (Rom. viii. 18).
In this day’s Gospel we read that, wishing to give His disciples a glimpse of the glory of Paradise, so as to animate them to labour for the Divine honour, the Redeemer was transfigured, and allowed them to behold the splendour of His countenance. Ravished with joy and delight, St. Peter exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here! Lord, let us remain here; let us never more depart from this place; for the sight of Thy beauty consoles us more than all the delights of the earth.
Let us labour during the remainder of our lives to gain Heaven. Heaven is so great a good, that, to purchase it for us, Jesus Christ has sacrificed His life on the Cross. Be assured that the greatest of all the torments of the damned in hell arises from the thought of having lost Heaven through their own fault. The blessings, the delights, the joys, the sweetness of Paradise may be acquired; but they can be described and understood only by those blessed souls that enjoy them. According to the Apostle, no man on this earth can comprehend the infinite blessings which God has prepared for the souls that love Him. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Cor. ii. 9). In this life we cannot have an idea of any other pleasures than those which we enjoy by means of the senses.
Speaking of Paradise, St. Bernard says: O man, if you wish to understand the blessings of Heaven, know that in that happy country there is nothing which you would not desire and everything that you would desire. Although there are some things here below which are agreeable to the senses, how many more are there which only torment us? If the light of day is pleasant, the darkness of night is disagreeable: if the spring and the autumn cheer us, the cold of winter and the heat of summer are painful. In addition, we have to endure the pains of sickness, the persecution of men, and the inconveniences of poverty; we must submit to interior troubles, to fears, to temptations of the devil, doubts of conscience, and to the uncertainty of eternal salvation.
But, after entering into Paradise, the blessed shall have no more sorrows. God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. And death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new. (Apoc. xxi. 4)
In Paradise, death and the fear of death are no more: in that place of bliss there are no sorrows, no infirmities, no poverty, no inconveniences, no vicissitudes of day or night, of cold or of heat. In that kingdom there is a continual day, always serene, a continual spring, always blooming. In Paradise there are no persecutions, no envy; for all love each other with tenderness, and each rejoices at the happiness of the others, as if it were his own. There is no more fear of hell, for the soul confirmed in grace can neither sin nor lose God.
In Heaven you will have all you can desire. Behold, I make all things new. There everything is new; new beauties, new delights, new joys. There all our desires shall be satisfied. The sight shall be satiated with beholding the beauty of that city. How delightful to behold a city the streets of which were made of crystal, the houses of silver, the windows of gold, and all adorned with the most beautiful flowers. But, oh, how much more beautiful shall be the city of Paradise! The beauty of the place shall be heightened by the beauty of the inhabitants, who are all clothed in royal robes; for, according to St. Augustine, they are all kings: Quot cives, tot reges.
Justly, then, has St. Augustine said that to gain the eternal glory of Paradise, we should cheerfully embrace eternal labour. The Saints have done but little to acquire Heaven. So many kings who have abdicated their thrones and shut themselves up in cloisters; so many holy anchorets who have confined themselves in caves; so many Martyrs who have cheerfully submitted to torments–to the rack, and to red-hot plates–all these have done but little. The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared to the glory to come. (Rom. viii. 18). To gain Heaven, it would be but little to endure all the pains of this life.
Let us, then, courageously resolve to bear patiently all the sufferings which may come upon us during the remaining days of our lives: to secure Heaven they are all little or nothing. Rejoice, then, for all these pains, sorrows, and persecutions shall, if we are saved, be to us a source of never-ending joys and delights. Your sorrow, shall be turned into joy. (John xvi. 20). When, therefore the crosses of this life afflict us, let us raise our eyes to Heaven, and console ourselves with the hope of Paradise. At the end of her life, St. Mary of Egypt was asked by the Abbot, St. Zozimus, how she had been able to live for forty-seven years in the desert where he found her dying. She answered: With the hope of Paradise. If we be animated with the same hope, we shall not feel the tribulations of this life. Courage! Let us love God and labour for Heaven. There the Saints expect us, Mary expects us, and Jesus Christ expects us. He holds in His hand a crown to make each of us a king in that eternal kingdom.
(Meditation for Second Sunday of Lent – St Alphonsus Liguori)