Brothers and sisters: If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
As we enter into the season of Easter, St. Paul reminds us to “set our minds on things that are above,” and I find myself curious today about how to do that. How do we think not about “things on earth” but about things of heaven when we have no experience of heaven yet, but only of here on Earth? For me, this is an invitation to return to the mystery that is waiting for us in heaven and to the inevitable fact that there’s no real way to picture what it will be like.
For many people, we have a vague sort of idea of heaven as a place where there is no more suffering but only joy and good things. Where we are united with those we love and with God eternally. We might imagine it as a place filled with the best of what we have seen on Earth. But if we spend a few moments thinking about it seriously, any number of good questions come to mind. Will we have parties in heaven? Would one long continuous party no longer be fun? What about introverts who would rather read a good book by the fireplace – do they have to attend the party too? Will we sing and make music? What kind of music? Will my pet dog/cat/gerbil be in heaven? What will our bodies look like in heaven? Who will we see in heaven? What about that person who really annoys me; do I have to be with them eternally too? For that matter, what is the experience of eternity like? Will it drag on?
Other than giving myself a headache, what is the purpose of considering these questions and pondering about “the things that are above” as Paul suggests we do? One reason I can think of is that we are notoriously bad, here on Earth, at evaluating what things are truly good, for us and for others. It is easy, when we spend our time worrying about our earthly life, to worry too much about money, about possessions, about the respect of friends or colleagues. These can all be good things, but they need to be ordered towards an end, and that end is eternal life with God. When we take the time regularly to contemplate eternal life, it reminds us of how we want to live here on Earth so as to be ready for it. I may not know what it will be like to dwell in the presence of one another in heaven, but thinking about it certainly reminds me that I can work on being more patient and loving towards the people around me here on Earth. After all, we may be spending eternity shoulder to shoulder.
In this Easter season, may we set our minds on the wonderful future that God has in store for us and set our hearts to preparing for that journey.