What comes to mind when you think of yourself as a citizen of the United States of America?
For many, probably both positive and negative thoughts. Like the incredible freedoms we have, but also the head-shaking division that too often comes with those freedoms. If we are truly the “land of the free,” how come it feels like we are slaves to material things and to our own self-interests? Why does it feel like we never have enough? As Americans, we have been blessed with so many gifts, resources and talented people. Yet, we are filled with so much anxiety, isolation and despair. Perhaps “freedom” doesn’t come from acquiring a lot of stuff or from the never-ending drive to be the “best” no matter the cost?
Now, what comes to mind when you think of yourself as a citizen of heaven? (Or, do you even think of yourself that way?) In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven.”
When I think of heaven, my immediate thought goes to “am I good enough to get there?” In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we often forget that our earthly citizenship is temporary. We forget that our earthly decisions have eternal consequences. But, when I keep “heavenly citizenship” front and center in my thoughts, words and actions, it affects my earthly citizenship, and in a good way. Growing in friendship with the Holy Trinity actually makes my time on earth more “heavenly.” By changing our perspective “on what is above, not of what is on earth” God gives us glimpses of heaven while on earth through Mass and the Eucharist; through truth, beauty and goodness; and through joy, love, mercy, peace and hope.
Many of us let our citizenship in our country, state, city and even our parish community limit the size of God. Because of our fallen nature, we become caught up in our own self-sufficiency, selfishness, desire for control and pride that we forget that our time on earth is our dress rehearsal for eternal life in heaven or hell. We may actually think that we don’t need God.
God created us to be in relationship with Him, although that relationship was broken through sin. Jesus restores our relationship. We are invited to repent and follow Jesus. Through baptism, we are God’s adopted daughters and sons. We were made to be with Him, not separated from Him. Citizenship in heaven is our destiny, but only if we choose the gift of life that God freely offers us.
As we enter the Easter season, let’s put the “bigness” back in God. Aim for heaven. Use your gifts according to God’s will for you. Let your daily decisions be for the greater glory and honor of God. Live the life that God intended for you on earth and in heaven.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County.