I spent time yesterday at the threshold of heaven.
Let me explain.
I often think when I am celebrating a funeral as I was yesterday. that we are, for these hours, at the entrance to paradise.
This sense is especially strong for me when the person who has died has lived and loved in faith, knowing on earth that they are loved and called by God, and who has longed to live this in every moment, every word, and every encounter.
In the funeral liturgy we are thanking God for the one we love, accepting that they are at the end of their earthly life and ready to begin life eternal.
We give the one we love to God, aware that we tomorrow have to return to the demands and routines of earthly life without the company of the one who has been our constant companion on the journey.
It is as if in these hours heaven and earth are intersecting as we give our loved one into God’s kind keeping, knowing that at the invitation of God, and with our willing response, we will one day be reunited.
This is our way forward.
But the threshold is a hard place to be.
We do remember the past, perhaps with a nostalgia which provides a comfort, a security. But the way forward is unknown and we often balk at the uncertainty of the path ahead.
Like the Old Testament pilgrims, initially excited about the prospects of an abundant and eternal life, the journey becomes tough and we give up on progress, wanting to turn back the clock resorting to the captivity of earth over the joy of the life God is offering in our future:
They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness?
What the Israelites failed to see was that wilderness is another name for the pathway from captivity to freedom, from repression to abundance. Yes it’s a journey, but we are made for the journey. We are up to it, and we evidence this when we live for short moments at a destination before we compulsively grasp at another project, another adventure.
We are made for journey because we are pilgrims, and the life we share on earth is the pathway to the life for which we are created.
The tougher the struggle, the more challenging the adventure, the more we need one another and the more we are open to the power of God.
Perhaps the question from God for me today is simply am I moving forwards or backwards?
You might find the first reading at yesterday’s funeral encouraging:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13