May 1, 2024 // Perspective

To Meet Jesus in Heaven, We Must Meet Him Now

It’s that time of year when everything seems to be in transition. The weather is moving from spring into summer. The flowers and trees are back to life. Graduations are coming, and this spring, two new priests and a deacon will be ordained for our diocese. Naturally, it gives us an opportunity to dream a little – to step back and imagine what the future holds. And while none of us knows exactly what is in store for the adventures that lie ahead, we do know the One who holds the future in His hands.

St. Philip Neri had a little phrase he used frequently throughout his ministry: “e poi!” – Italian for “and then!” He would use this phrase especially when talking with young people who were seeking to move up in the world. Whether it was a businessperson seeking the next venture or investment or members of the clergy seeking higher ecclesiastical offices, Philip was fond of asking each of them, “e poi!” Inevitably, they would all come to the same conclusion: We all will eventually come to the end of our earthly journey. We all have an expiration date, so to speak. In the end, there are only two options: heaven or hell.

While hope springs anew each year, Philip’s admonition gives us an opportunity to place our upcoming adventures on an eternal horizon. After graduation, we may find ourselves in a new job or at a new level of education – and then? Perhaps, we find ourselves on the other end of the spectrum looking forward to retirement – and then?

Whatever the situation, we can miss much of the joy hidden in our lives if we keep looking forward to the very next thing to come. Certainly, there is a hope that should come with looking toward the future. But it should never overshadow the encounter with the living God who wants to meet us in the current moment.

When God first reveals His name to Moses in Exodus 3:14, He calls Himself “I AM WHO AM.” In other words, God reveals Himself to be the One whose essence is His existence. He is Being itself. Properly, therefore, the place where we encounter God is not so much in the future or in the past; rather, it is in the present moment.

In part, this is the reality of the sacraments. They are efficacious signs of grace for the present moment. They actually dispense divine life in the very moments in which they are celebrated. The same is true in every celebration of Mass. Mass is not simply a looking back at what Jesus did in history, nor is it only looking forward to His glorious return; rather, it is the summation of all of Christ’s saving work poured out upon us in the present moment.

As our schools let out for summer and the temperatures (hopefully) rise, perhaps we can take the opportunity to slow down and encounter Jesus exactly where He is at: in the present moment. Maybe this summer is the perfect time to mix in daily Mass during the week. Maybe it’s time to finally sign up for that Holy Hour of Eucharistic adoration at your local parish that you’ve been meaning to do. Or, perhaps, this summer gives you the opportunity to go on a retreat to simply be with the Lord in solitude.

Whatever the case, meeting Jesus today is the best way to prepare to meet Him in eternity. In fact, the same Jesus present in the Eucharist is the same One who is already reigning in glory. The same One who will judge us at the moment of our death is the same One who now sits in the tribunal of mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To look at Jesus now is to look into heaven.

No “e poi” can top that!

Father Brian Isenbarger is Parochial Vicar at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Fort Wayne.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.