Have you ever wondered what Heaven is like? I have. I mean, we talk about it all the time, but when we get down to it, we don’t know that much about it. We do know that we will behold God face to face there, and we also know that we will find the fulfillment of all our deepest longings. But we don’t know nearly as much as we would like.
Part of the reason for this may be that it is simply too wonderful for us to understand. St. Paul, who was actually taken up into heaven, had to confess that what he saw was beyond description. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love him,” he said in awe of what he witnessed.
Other saints and mystics who have seen our eternal home have confirmed the apostle’s words, assuring us that heaven is joyful beyond words, and that we should desire it more than any earthly treasure.
A Foretaste of Heaven
Despite our ignorance of the true nature of heaven, however, we have the ability to experience a small foretaste of its joys here on earth. One of my favorite saints, St. Maximilian Kolbe, explains how we can have this experience. Here is the saint in his own words (I have added numbering for ease of reading).
In any case, those who on this earth have had a chance to taste in advance a little bit of heaven can get some idea of what it will be like. Now everyone can have this experience. All he needs to do is:
1) Go to confession with sincerity, diligence, a deep sorrow for his sins and a firm resolve to amend his life. He will suddenly feel a peace and happiness compared with which all the fleeting, unworthy pleasures of this world are really an odious torment.
2) Let everyone seek to come and receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist with proper preparation.
3) Let him never permit his soul to remain in sin, but let him purify it immediately.
4) Let him do his duty manfully.
5) Let him address humble and frequent prayers to God’s throne, especially through the hands of the Immaculate Virgin.
6) Let him welcome his brethren with a charitable heart, bearing for God’s sake the sufferings and difficulties of life.
7) Let him do good to all, even his enemies, solely for the love of God and not in order to be praised or even thanked by men.
Then he will come to understand what it means to have a foretaste of paradise; and perhaps more than once he will find peace and joy even in poverty, suffering, disgrace, or illness.
Eternity Starts Now
In a very real sense, eternal life starts now. Both heaven and hell are simply confirmations of how we have chosen to live in this life. If we choose the way of selfishness, pride, greed, lust, and everything that is not God, we will quickly have a very real idea of the misery of hell. But if we instead choose the way of holiness, self-denial, forgiveness, and love of God and neighbor, we will find such peace and joy that it will be a real foretaste of heaven.
Perhaps you think you have lived too sinfully to have this experience of heaven—but that is simply not true. It is never too late to turn back to God. Repent with a sincere heart, confess your sins, and return to your heavenly Father who loves you and who is waiting to embrace you. Then you, too, can know the peace that passes all understanding.