The Heavenly Journey

By Pat Amobi Chukwuma

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. On the other hand, all play and no work make Jack a lazy boy. Work and rest are a sine qua non for a healthy living. There is time for everything. Travelling is an expedient venture. He who does not travel remains in a myopic world. We are on a daily journey in this world. Every day is a step forward. Gradually we are approaching the final destination which is beyond. Some have reached there while some are still on transit (‘unterwegs’ in German).

Yes, I excused myself about three weeks ago to pay a courtesy visit to God and to experience a bit of the Beatific Vision. In my heavenly courtesy call I was highly welcomed by the Saints. Archangel Michael took me to the Holy Trinity. I prostrated before the Divine Majesty. He then led me to the bosom of Abraham where I sat beside Lazarus. I beheld the glory of God. I wanted to stay there till eternity. But when I remembered the numerous phone calls and text messages that most of you were missing me, I took permission from God to come back and stay with you for about 30 more years before I depart finally to heaven. My journey to and fro was safe and sound. Thanks for your immense prayers. Are you happy? Struggle continues. This particular write-up is not a laughing matter like previous ones. Some persons have accused me of watering down serious matters. Therefore I have learnt to be more serious during my leave of absence. Are you with me? Please do not laugh before you trivialize my point of argument here.

The month of November is full of mystical and ontological events. In heaven there were a lot of rehearsals this year for the annual grand Solemnity of All Saints which took place on Friday, 1st November 2019. God created us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him here on earth and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. The Catechism of Christian Doctrine tells us that God is everywhere, but He lives in heaven. Heaven is therefore the abode of God, prepared for the Angels and for the Saints in perpetuity. The saints are men and women who lived good lives during their sojourn on earth. No one is born as a saint; rather a saint is made by personal struggle combined with the grace of God. A sinner can become a saint through repentance and perseverance. Saint Vincent Pallotti asserts that humility changed men into Angels while pride turned Angels into devils. Are you humble or proud? Prophet Ezekiel rightly says that God does not desire the death of a sinner but his repentance (Ezekiel 18:23). Thus we are to be blamed if we fail to make heaven at last. I came back with a lot of heavenly invitation cards from God. Do not waste time to come and collect yours. First come, first served.

The Saints in heaven are theologically categorized as the Church Triumphant. It is only those who are victorious that can triumph. In other words, a failure does not triumph. Soldiers triumph when they defeat their enemies at war. The saints scored excellent marks at the eternal examination in which God is the perfect Examiner. The examination takes place at the judgment seat of God immediately after death. Saint Paul states that each and every one of us must give account of one’s earthly life before God (Rom. 14:12). Our life span here on earth is a preparation for the eternal divine examination. In order to pass that exam we must burn daily the midnight lamp. Recently I visited one of my relations during my leave of absence. I spent three days with him. He was so hospitable to me. I observed that he keeps awake every night studying his Bible and praying ardently. Rarely does he sleep. When I accosted him, he told me that he burns the midnight lamp daily in order to attain heaven. I encouraged him and also advised him that a person going to heaven should also have time to sleep in order to maintain healthy equilibrium between the body and the soul.

One of my parishioners stays behind in the church every day after morning Mass. She goes home late in the evening. On a certain day, I approached her and enquired why she does so. She piously asserted that she is seriously preparing for heaven. I asked about her profession. She told me that she is a primary school teacher but has given it up for the sake of heaven. I advised her that a person preparing for heaven must pray and work. We prepare for heaven by doing the right thing at the right time. St Paul scolded the people of Thessalonica when he heard that some of them were living in idleness and interfering in other people’s affairs. He vehemently asserted, “We urged you when we were with you not to let anyone eat who refused to work” (2Thess. 3:10). In summary, heaven is not for a lazy person. In order to go to heaven, we must work hard in the church, in the family, in society and in our places of work.

After the Solemnity of the Church Triumphant on 1st November 2019, came the Commemoration of the Church Suffering on Saturday 2nd November 2019. The Church Suffering comprises the souls of some of the departed who are undergoing purification in a state known as purgatory due to minor imperfections. Nothing impure can enter the Kingdom of God. The word ‘purgatory’ is the noun form of the infinitive ‘to purge’. The souls in purgatory scored weak-pass at the divine eternal examination. They are not worthy enough to go to heaven and not bad enough to proceed to hell. Out of God’s mercy, they undergo purification before entering into heaven. In fact, if God does not temper justice with mercy, heaven will be empty due to human imperfections. The souls in purgatory are helpless by themselves. Their quicker entrance into heaven depends on the intercession of the faithful on earth. That is why we pray for the dead. The whole month of November is devoted to praying for the souls in purgatory for God’s mercy and for their entrance into heaven. The souls in purgatory suffer as much as those in hell because both do not see God who they are yearning for. The difference is that the duration of purgatory is temporal while that of hell is everlasting.

The faithful people of God still struggling for survival on earth are called the Church Militant. We are soldiers on the earthly warfront fighting to win the heavenly battle. We are fighting against sins, principalities and powers that hinder our eternal salvation. Saint Paul puts it thus: “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you, may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:12 – 13). This battle is more than Operation Python Dance, Operation Crocodile Tears, Operation Lafiya Dole, etc of the Nigerian Army. It is both physical and spiritual warfare that must be won and not just decimated. When a battle becomes so fierce and dangerous, the soldiers retreat and then come back more equipped and stronger. Our weapons in fighting the heavenly battle are prayer, living good lives, repentance from our sins, love of God and neighbor, doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy and perseverance in faith.

On November 24, 2019 is the Solemnity of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. It is the last Sunday in the Church’s liturgical Calendar. Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Omega is someone who can do everything possible and impossible. In my secondary school days, one of my schoolmates took Omega as his nickname.

Unfortunately, during the promotion examination he failed woefully in all subjects and was asked to repeat the class. The students stopped calling him Omega. From then they called him Failure. Jesus Christ is not a failure but the sole Omega and Saviour of mankind (living and dead). He was crowned on the Cross at Calvary. He died and was buried. On the third day he rose from the grave and ascended later into heaven and seated at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. Shall we be alive in good deeds or dead in sin when he comes?