- Maria Papia
Lift your eyes to Heaven
We’re two weeks into Lent, and it’s been very fruitful, but uncomfortable if you will. I began January 1 with the bible in a year and then added on the daily lenten devotional from the Hallow app. I’m also reading “Loving God, Loving Others,” daily devotional and “New Wine,” from Blessed Is She. A lot of content. I’ve been hearing/reading a lot of good stuff and a lot of challenging stuff; stuff that makes my head hurt and my heart ache. Something Fr. Mike once mentioned was that, Lent is sometimes a season that makes us uncomfortable - we’re praying more than we usually do and at times when we don’t feel like it. I don’t know why this commitment isn’t a practice for me every day of my life, maybe because kids/work/house duties/extracurriculars, etc etc. Excuses that are easy to come by, but in fact I feel so much better when I’m “in it,” inspired by so many wise and spiritual people; people who have had struggles just like mine. It’s amazing to see how they’ve completely trusted in Jesus and blessings have unfolded tenfold. I strive to be like them.
Lent is sometimes a season that makes us uncomfortable.
I can’t remember which source it came from, but one of the days I heard a talk about yearning for heaven and not being satisfied with what is here on earth. Never feeling content with the “happiness” and “things,” we have during our time on earth. That really struck me. How does one yearn for Heaven? We don’t know anything concrete about Heaven other than the pictures our minds draw up from what we read in scripture. It’s honestly been unsettling me for days. I prayed to Jesus, “How do I do this?” How can I not be happy with what is around me - the sun shining, the sound of birds chirping, the wind rustling leaves, the sound of ocean waves, the sight of magnificent creation, my miraculous children, a wonderful spouse and family, strong, joy filled friendships, the pleasures of life, witnessing goodness…
How can I look forward to a place I know nothing about? How can I want more than what I have now? I don’t mean for that to sound vain, because we all have our share of struggles, but generally, it’s a good life. A life I love living. A lot of the time it’s filled with comfort and happiness.
A recent evening I had a conversation with my husband about this very matter and it did bring me some clarity. However, a few days later a tragedy occurred. It was extremely tragic and weighed heavily on my heart. A couple days later, another tragedy. Within the span of the week there were two deaths, a serious illness, and a despairing diagnosis. All I could think to myself was there is just this overwhelming feeling of despair. So many people are suffering and my heart is breaking for them. If it’s not one thing it’s another. I can’t even keep up with meals, gifts, or thoughtfulness for people that are hurting. Cancer, loss of a relative, a miscarriage, a car accident, natural disasters, loss of a pet… the list is unending and too many people are affected daily. Sometimes it just all hits at once.
One of the daily Lenten readings had me meditate on Jesus’ agony in the garden - “If it be possible, let this chalice pass from me” - don’t we all feel like that at one point in our lives? Can’t we avoid suffering? Can’t we have a different outcome? Why me? Why the ones I love? We all have our crosses to carry, some heavier than others. As Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” He deeply suffered, knowing what was coming.
Rocio Hermes wrote, “Suffering can be both our remedy and our teacher since through the hardships in life, we can learn the holy, arduous work of surrender.” Now, let me clarify by saying that not all unfortunate and horrible circumstances are directives from God. Suffering can be allowed by God and an effect from sin, but it’s certainly not given by Him. Bad things happen to good people all the time. It’s the world we live in. And THERE is where my question was answered….THAT is how we yearn for Heaven. We look forward to being in the divine presence of God, in His ultimate glory. Where there is no pain, no grief, no illness, no deception, no loneliness, no murder, no war, no death. We look forward to everlasting life, living in complete and utter joy and peace with all of those that have gone before us.
I take comfort in the words of Bella Rol, “Your deep suffering is not hidden from Him. Your pain isn’t seen through distant eyes. Your tears aren’t heard by disinterested ears. When you are pressed to the brink of your limit, you are not abandoned. When you suffer, every ache of your heart doesn’t go unnoticed. He suffers with you.”
I am thankful to have a God that loves us so much, so unconditionally, and so deeply. As far as my human emotion, it’ll always be too much for my heart to handle. On this earth, evil will always exist, along with heartache. All we can do with our time is turn our hearts and faces to Jesus to let His light shine on us. We can allow him to transform our pain and use it for good. We can offer it up on behalf of others.
In the deepest part of my heart, I want others to know the immense love of Christ. How can we do this? Well, we know we are called to put the needs of the vulnerable first. Matthew 25:40 says, “What you did for the least of my brothers, you did for me,” and Mother Teresa says, “Do small acts with great love.” While these verses are commonly repeated, how well do we act on it? We can start with REALLY acknowledging people - in person, in stores, at the doctor’s office, restaurants, or through phone calls, letters, or texts. Just by being present, we can bring the love of Christ. We can aid those who carry heavy crosses closer to the Resurrection.
I’ll leave you with words written by Megan Hjelmstad, “If you feel burdened by suffering, pain, or unfulfilled desires, look to the Bread of Life and become a well-fed soul strengthened to feed others. Like Christ, we are invited to allow God to transform our suffering into joy and resurrection for others. Jesus can -and will- fulfill our every longing in the end.”