Will heaven be different for you and me?

Recently I was asked whether there are different levels of heaven, or to put it another way, will there be different levels of existence in heaven. It is an intriguing question. It is also an important one.

Underlying the question are the very human notions of fairness and equality. We live in a world where every single human being is, from conception to death, constantly categorized and measured, based on a complex, yet arbitrary set of values. It is in our nature to assess, evaluate, critique, and judge others with respect to our own existence.

The truth is that every human being is a unique creation of God. In all of human existence there never has been and never will be another you. You are truly unique, and it is your unique qualities that are measured by others in relation to themselves. Success or failure, rich or poor, genius or idiot, tall or short, thin or fat, beautiful or ugly, male or female, good or bad, on and on; we are judged and placed somewhere on a continuum in every conceivable measurable way and that ultimately defines who you are as a human being and your perceived human value to the rest of humanity.

But that isn’t how God sees it. God sees each and every person as His creation. He has created each of us with a body and a soul and He has a unique, one-on-one relationship with each one of us. God does not compare you to me or to any other human being. He judges you on how well you use or fail to use the unique gifts He has given you. Use your gifts well and yours will be the Kingdom of Heaven; use them unwisely or poorly, use your imagination.

The essential element to understanding heaven can be found in the Catechism where it defines heaven as “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity—this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed—is called ‘heaven.’ Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” [CCC 1024].

An excellent article on the Church’s heavenly teachings, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Heaven written by Jimmy Akin in the July/August 2013 edition of Catholic Answers magazine says this in answer to the question posed earlier: “The core insight behind the depictions of multilayered heavens is that heaven is not a single state in which all saints and angels are equal and all people receive the same reward. It’s more complex than that.

Prior to becoming Pope Benedict XVI, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote “The Scholastics took these insights further and gave them systematic form. Drawing, in part, on extremely venerable traditions, they spoke of the special ‘crowns’ of martyrs, virgins, and doctors. Today, we are rather more circumspect where such assertions are concerned. It is sufficient to know that God gives each and every person his fulfillment in a way peculiar to this or that individual, and that in this way each and all receive to the uttermost” [Eschatology, 236].

No one can say with absolute confidence what is the nature of heaven; only that it will be peculiar to each of us and that for each of us it will be the uttermost.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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