For most Christians, the word “heaven” doesn’t mean very much.
This is for two reasons.
The first is that we just don’t think often about heaven. The practical demands of life on earth tend to monopolize our attention.
But this is a dangerous mistake. Jesus came to earth in order to be able to lead us to heaven. He died on the cross so that we could look forward to eternal life in heaven. Heaven is the goal, the destination of our lives on earth. How foolish a traveler would be to struggle forward without ever thinking about where he is going!
There is another reason why our idea of heaven is so shadowy: it’s simply because picturing eternal life is hard for us. This is where Jesus’ revelation in today’s Gospel is so helpful (Seventh Sunday of Easter; for the Feast of Our Lord’s Ascension, see here). He tells us exactly what eternal life is: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one you sent, Jesus Christ.”
The greatest joy of human existence even here on earth consists in relationships of love. After all, what would mansions and yachts, works of art and mountain cottages, sunrises and ocean voyages be without others to share them with?
Loving relationships can make life’s most boring activities enjoyable and meaningful. But here on earth, our relationships are fragile, like human life itself, and they can go sour, because of sin. Today Jesus is telling us that heaven is nothing more or less than a perfect relationship of love, an everlasting getting-to-know-God, Christ, and all the saints.
These relationships will never get boring or tedious, because God is infinite, and getting to know him is an adventure that will never end.
If the best human friendships never lose their luster, how much more indescribable will be our eternal friendship with God, from whom all good things come!