Staggering on the Way to Heaven

By Chris Sparks

There are great saints who keep their eyes fixed on Christ, who cling steadfastly to their crosses, who are bold and strong in their adherence to the moral law, who bear all things, believe all things, and hope all things (see 1 Cor 13:7). They are great-hearted, full of generous love of God, perfected in virtue, steadfast and strong.

Thank God they exist, but that’s not me. That’s not my path home to Heaven, nor is it the path home to Heaven for far too many of us.

There are elder brothers, folks who’ve labored faithfully in the vineyard from the beginning of their lives, serving the Father well and truly, and who will inherit all of the Kingdom of Heaven in the end.

Thank God they exist for the sake of us prodigals, for the sake of us weak and tempted human beings, for those who do fall apart, those who do collapse on the road to Heaven, those who do get down in the mud with the pigs and the refuse of better feasts. Without the elder brothers, there may not be a Church to come home to.

There are the living saints, those who are pillars of rectitude in our parishes, our communities, and sometimes our families, those whose prayers knit us together, hold people up in the face of the storms of life, and are a constant source of strength and help to those whom they love.

Thank God they exist, for the rest of us need their prayers.

For many of us, the path home to Heaven is filled with slips and spills, with faceplants in the mud and muck of our own vices, our own sins, our own particular collection of failings. For many of us, the confessional is a frequent waystation on the path to Christ; the confessor who gives us absolution, a steady friend. Holy water and frequent Communion for healing from venial sins is indispensable. And indulgences are our best hope for a swift passage through Purgatory.

For many of us — well, even after we’ve been brought into the sheepfold of the Church by the Good Shepherd, we do keep on wandering back out. The parable talks about one lost sheep and 99 who remained behind; but it doesn’t address the question of how often the lost sheep would get lost, or how many times the Good Shepherd had to come find us again, or whether the rest of the 99 ever began wandering, as well.

The Divine Mercy message and devotion is given for the wanderers, as Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, makes plain in his works, especially Consoling the Heart of Jesus and 33 Days to Merciful Love. We’re blessed with the gifts of St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way and the Divine Mercy devotions, all exceptional sources of grace. We are the little souls, the ones who fall often, the ones without the strength for the hard demands of the great way of high sanctity, of the strongest of saints, of the greatest of virtue. We little ones are all too easily scattered, separated from the flock by the wolves, cut off from the Good Shepherd by our own fear or distraction, by vice and sin or the war of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Divine Mercy is the answer. Jesus, Divine Mercy Incarnate, came down to save us all, and He remained with us in the Holy Eucharist, in the Church, and in the poor. We are blessed with an infinity of moments during our lives when we can repent, when we can pray, when we can say yes to God once again. We are given the great Sacraments of Baptism, Confession, and Holy Communion, God’s ways of overcoming the devil’s two tools of sin and death, as Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, preaches. We are blessed by God with simple devotions and sophisticated theology, with a Church that will always rise from the grave and Sacraments that will always transmit grace. We have the Rosary, one of the greatest and most powerful of all devotions, as Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, has taught so well in his many books. We are blessed by God with everything we need, even we who fall, even we who fail, like Peter who denied Jesus three times or the Apostles who fled from Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus came to save us, not to condemn us. Take up the means of salvation given to us by God, and together, we’ll all find our way home.

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash.

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