Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Making heaven wait?

Friday's Jonal elicited a thoughtful but, I think, baiting, response from one reader:

Interesting Jonal. I don't fully agree with your interpretations or comparisons of today's world and how the Noahides fit in, but it's your opinion and I'll respect it. However...I have a question, and this never ceases to puzzle me. If it is so bad here, and by here I mean 'life' in society as we know it, and heaven is so much more desirable, why do people hang on to this miserable existence to the very last second? Doctors' offices are jammed full of people trying to "hang on" to life for as long as possible. Why?...If heaven is something so much better than where we now are, why not stop taking the heart drugs, the chemo, the insulin, and whatever else we cling to to keep us around for another day, week, month or decade? Why not just say "to hell with it" and stop so we can hasten our journey to His kingdom?

God gave us our lives...he knows how much time each of us is to have on this earth, why do we meddle in God's business by trying to change his plan for us by not letting things take their natural course? The only needs man has to live his allotted time are the, clothing, shelter, the rest are nothing but embellishments we can do without...but make our miserable existence worthwhile. It's the good job, the nice car, the boat, the great house, the state-of-the-art camera or computer, etc., that makes life just "unmiserable" enough to hang on to. Am I correct?

By "baiting" I mean that I think the writer knew full well my answer—or at least my philosophical stance—to his or her questions. The same writer recently advocated the quick dispatching of Terri Schiavo in response to my series of reflections on that case, where I made my position on life questions rather clear. He is rearguing her* case perhaps to trip me up, or just to get another long-disagreed-upon issue to the boiling point again. I'm declining to take that bait, but I will answer the questions as though I take them as innocent and sincere probings.

"Heaven" waits for no man or woman, no angel, principality, or power. When it's timing is full, there is no delaying it. But this still leaves hanging the questions all summarized in "why put so much effort and cash layout into delaying the inevitable?" The answer is three simple words: Christians are prolife. Godfearing people have always been prolife. Murder was the first unretractable sin in recorded history, recorded specifically in Gensis 4:3-12:

And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” 8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”.

Though Cain couldn't retract the evil he had done, another more universal sin that besets all of us is retractable. We can repent of it and make it go away. Sometimes this requires what the Gospel refers to as "violence"; that is, we have to use brute force to make it go away, but we can be healed of the sin that God identified in Cain as his "fallen countenance." Or the fallen countenance was the external sign of the inward sin, which was ingratitude. There's nothing more universal in the human condition than ingratitude, and most ingratitude, even those instances of it we show to our spouses, our parents, children, neighbors, and the strangers who hold the door for us or at least withhold the animosity we often deserve, is in fact ingratitude toward God. Cain was ingrateful for God's mercy and chose jealousy instead, and then acted out his jealousy by means of murdering the brother he was jealous of.

Anyone who grumbles about how miserable life is is ungrateful to God, the creator of life and the sustainer of everyone's life. To thumb one's nose at the greatest gift we've ever received, is the height of arrogance, it's blasphemy. But I daresay we all do it, every day. I know I do, when, for example, I have a "miss" in traffic that's so close that it scares me, my normal reaction is anger toward the other driver, the other car, myself, everyone...and especially anger toward God. Because when I should have been grateful for being spared yet again, I've been anything but.

The most wonderful aspect of the greatest gift, our lives, is that we don't know their parameters. We expect ups and downs, some illnesses, setbacks, but most lives also have some recoveries and happy times after some crises. So we "expect" some of that, too. To take the attitude that heaven is so great we can't wait to get there, and not clean up our wounds and try to help them heal rather letting them fester would be the height of ingratitude toward God for sparing the rest of our bodies for similar wounds, and for giving us a chance to repent some more. Every saint confesses that his only regret is insufficient time to fully repent, and all saints I've ever read about, back to the first generations of the church, have availed themselves of the medical science of their times to help them heal and get back into the work that God has assigned them to do.

The most noble example I can think of for this, and one you'll all be aware of, is the late Pope John Paul II. He fought death heroically for several years, taking every measure possible to improve his quality of life and extend his time. After his last hospitalization, when it became obvious that his time was up, he graciously accepted it, but only after the world had seen his dedication to the message he had preached all his life: Christians are prolife!

(Some may think they're seeing some loose ends here. If so, please bring them back to our attention and we'll take them up later.)

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

*Here I'm intentionally disguising the writer's gender to throw any reader sleuths off track.


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—Blaise Pascal

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