This past Sunday was the first for the Children’s Liturgy Program at the parish. At the beginning of Mass, I invited them forward and posed to these 4 – 6 year olds the question that was posed to Jesus in the Gospel, “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” or more plainly “What do I gotta do to get to Heaven?” The children were baffled and no one raised their hand to give a response. Unwilling to give up easily, I asked them again and waited … and waited … and finally a young boy put up his hand. His response was not quite what I was expecting. What must I do to get to Heaven … “Father, you have to learn how to fly!” The entire congregation laughed.
The response of this young boy lingered in my thoughts the whole day, partly because it made me laugh – it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. But there was more to it. The more I thought about it, the more profound I found the response to be.
Consider these verses of Scripture:
“Son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you are saying: Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”‘ (Ezekiel 33:10)
Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children: they have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards. (Isaiah 1:4)
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. (Luke 21:34)
One of the infamous effects of sin is precisely that it weighs us down. It grabs ahold of us and is not content that we’ve given in once, but wishes to drag us down lower and lower. This why we “hang our heads” when we know we’ve done something wrong, something that has actually hurt us instead of helping.
In comparison, grace has the opposite effect, it makes us lighter. The presence of God within our soul makes us more free, happier, and leads to many good fruits for ourselves and others. Think of many of the phrases we use to describe times of great joy and satisfaction: I’m elated, I jump for joy, I’m on cloud nine, I’m walking on air.
What do we have to do to get to heaven … we have to learn to fly. How true. Only the souls that have been thoroughly purified of evil and set free from it’s grasp will be light enough to float straight to Heaven to the arms of the Father.