Marriage Matters

Family Matters – Hope in Heaven

This article was posted on: December 14, 2023

I am always honored to go out and speak to groups of people, and lately, I have had the opportunity to talk to many confirmation students. One of the questions I ask them is, “What is your goal in life?” Inevitably, someone raises their hand and regurgitates the standard Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) answer, “To get to heaven.” I always respond by saying, “That is a great answer. But your answer begs another question. If the goal in life is to get to heaven, why do people want to spend eternity with God when they can barely spend one hour at Mass?” Immediately, a wave of blank stares takes over the audience. I follow my question up with the statement, “Getting into heaven has to be about more than avoiding hell.”

Father Conrad Targonski and Bishop William Patrick Callahan share a smile after Mass celebrating the canonical establishment of the Tau Shalom fraternity at San Damiano Chapel within Viterbo University.

But what is heaven? Are we able to fly there? Can we eat whatever we want? Are our pets there? Will we be able to hang out with famous people? Will we finally get answers to questions like, “What is the Bermuda Triangle? Do aliens exist? How long does it really take for a Twinkie to expire?”

While we typically have negative feelings regarding dying because of the earthly emotions we feel when someone passes away, we have to remember the big picture. When speaking to the thief on the cross, Jesus refers to heaven, saying, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” This gives us hope not only in heaven as a place but also in the gift of eternal life and being with Him for eternity.

One thing that I have not been able to grasp is how a nonbeliever finds happiness when they have chosen to turn away from the hope found in a relationship with Christ. For a nonbeliever, death is truly the end. I don’t say this to demean anyone who doesn’t believe, I say it because it strengthens my resolve to spread the Good News because I don’t want anyone to face life without hope. Years ago, I suffered through a tragedy where the only thing I had left was hope in Christ.

Dan and Christine Kitzhaber were named the diocesan and state “Family of the Year” at a Mass on August 27th hosted by St. John the Baptist Parish in Marshfield.
Our Knights of Columbus, committed to charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, serve across our diocese.

Coming Over

It was the day before I was going to start college, and my family went out of town to visit friends. My mother left a note for me to check on my grandfather because he wasn’t feeling well. My buddy came to pick me up to hang out, but before we left, I insisted I give my grandfather a call to check on him. My grandfather picked up the phone and was disoriented. I finally told him I was coming right over, which wouldn’t take long since he lived around the corner. When my buddy and I got to the house, my grandfather did not answer the door after repeated knocks. We decided to break into the house through the garage. I hit the door as hard as I could with my shoulder, literally breaking the door. I ran through the house and found my grandfather on the floor. I called the paramedics, who came and assessed the situation and informed me that he had passed away.

The Gift of Heaven

In that moment of despair, asking God why it happened, and feeling the guilt that I could not save my grandfather, I still had hope, in fact, that was all I had. Looking back, I cannot imagine living through those moments without hope. I knew then that eternal life in heaven is a gift, not only to my grandfather but to me as well. It is my continued connection to him and, at the same time, Jesus’ gift to me. How could I ever live without this gift? How could I keep this gift a secret? We can look to the future for the gift of heaven, but by spreading the Good News, we are helping to bring heaven on earth right now.

Chris Rogers
Director of the Office for Family Life
Published in the November/December 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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