A strange fable. A man died, came to the pearly gates, welcomed by St Peter who offered him a quick tour before he met God who was lovingly busy with a group of war victims, refugees, exiles, cruelly imprisoned, consoling them “and showing them how to make heaven of earth when they had had little or no chance to make or see heaven on earth. “It’s wonderful to see and hear,” said St Peter “God bathes in eternal light the beauty and horror of creation. Every time I listen I feel the terrible regret of having denied knowing Jesus at his trial. I shall never forget – but it is part of my heaven: the terrible regret and the beautiful forgiveness. That’s it, really. As I take you around you will recognise so much but see and understand in beautiful new ways. Heaven is Creation fulfilled. All that God made is good. All you knew on earth is here, but transformed by seeing with God’s love. You have been living in eternity since you were conceived as a miracle of new life.”
They walked. St Peter was right. The man had seen without noticing, had heard without listening, had known without understanding. Now all was new. Eternal life was love experienced for everyone and everything. He was overwhelmed – as we all shall be.
Suddenly, a surprise. A huge warehouse. Locked. Secrets in heaven, he wondered as St Peter clearly was ignoring the building. “You wouldn’t want to go there,” said St Peter, “It’s the one disappointment here. Painful.”
The man pleaded he would rather know than not know. “That’s not always wise,” said St Peter, “but I’ll explain. Inside the warehouse is a personal box that belongs to everyone who ever lived. Inside the box is a selection of beautiful presents that God had for them – but they never asked. God kept them for them, but they never asked. God tried to send, to give, but because people hadn’t thought they did not recognise the blessings and they all came back ‘Return to sender’. And that is where they have been kept, always with the hope people would open their minds and hearts and be ready to receive.”
The man opened his box. He recognised every blessing there and knew he had never asked, dared to ask, thought such longings to be impossible. But with God all things are possible: “Ask and you will receive,” said Jesus.
“Think big,” said Tom, a boy who missed much schooling through ill health but wrote and published seven historical novels, “Pensare in grande,” said Blessed Antonio Rosmini; and Jabez! Now the man understood Jabez! His short life story is told in two verses in the first book of Chronicles (Chapter 4, vv 9-10). His mother knew great distress at his birth (we don’t know the distress), jabez, so she gave the name to her son. What a name to carry through life: “Distress/Jabez.” But he did, becoming a symbol for everyone who knows and lives sadness, suffering, impossible longings. We are all Jabez! His prayer was “Bless me, give me as much responsibility as you want me to bear, guard me against wrong-doing and help me to harm noone.” What a prayer. It could be our prayer, every one of us is Jabez, knowing pain but longing to love. The story ends “God answered Jabez’ prayer.”
Have you asked God for everything? The gifts are waiting, gifts of love, for you to share with the world. You and I could make a list together of wonderful people who have lived the seemingly impossible. The human spirit is invincible because it is willing to suffer and die. Love is greater than life, love is eternal, God is love, God is truth. “Ask and you will receive.” Heaven is not to come, heaven is here: we can make heaven on earth for other people. You and I have seen it.
Ask for everything. You can’t ask too much. God longs to give, even to giving us Jesus. “Look at what Donald Trump did on his own,” God said “I can do better than that.”
So I prayed. Dear God, I am weaker now than I have ever been but help me to be a good priest for the people, to share the longings for justice and peace, to watch the united government organisation become the United Nations, governments freely elected, not cruelly imposed upon their suffering citizens; to see Churches and Faiths share truth, not argument; see my sinful Church authority admit its failings, moral and political . . .
God has begun to reply, Biden and Putin smiled with each other, Cardinal Marx has told Pope Francis and the world of the corruption of Church authority in its hiding the terrible abuse of our children and women; and, then, my personal prayer – to be shared when answered, but do pray with me and then you will share my joy fully.
God bless us all to make heaven for others,
(20th June 2021)