I continue my considerations on the Beatitudes (see previous articles on the January and February issues) saying that thanks to my contemplation of Christ Jesus, I do believe in heaven that has already started here on earth.
In the city of Bologna in Northern Italy, there is the Basilica of Santa Maria which has great spiritual attraction through its many works of art by which people are enabled to reach their souls. Among them, a beautiful Crucifix of the XVI century made up of papier-mâché. These were obtained from playing cards which had been used for gambling, after a series of sermons against that compulsion.
The Crucifix was meant to stand, and it still stands to this day, as a loud admonition against that bad habit which causes much suffering, crises in many families and several suicides. The message of the Crucifix is this: in Christ Jesus, even our dark inner prison can be transfigured into light. Jesus can transform the desert of human hearts into rich gardens with beautiful vegetation. Jesus can put life where He finds death. The Beatitudes give this same message.
Heaven on Earth
I believe in heaven here on earth even if we are flooded by situations of war, suffering, injustices and oppression of different forms. Taking inspiration from Hermes Ronchi, a priest Servant of Mary, and a great writer, I share and proclaim this faith in this manner: an angel of God says to those who suffer and weep: God is with you to journey with you, to wipe the tears coming down your cheeks and to give you courage. In a big storm, He is at your side to give you strength as He gave it to the disciples during a night on a heavy lake, so that you may not give up but hope for a dawn of quiet.
For us, while waiting for the situations of life to change for the better, we must change our attitudes and have a better sight to see God present and acting for our own good no matter the situation, asking Him the wisdom and the strength not to lose faith, but to move towards the light and life forever. History tells us that in the same situations of pain and even horror, some people have discovered God and the beauty of life, while others lost their faith and the power to celebrate life.
Two persons come to my mind: Elie Wiesel and Etty Hillesum. They both suffered terribly in a concentration camp. Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust, died in 2016 at the age of 87, and lost his faith in God and in life itself; Etty Hillesum who died in Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 29, found God in the midst of horrible sufferings and, with God, the joy of living.
Elie Wiesel wrote: “Never will I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever…. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live long as God Himself. Never.”
After having read this passage from the writing of Wiesel I said to myself: no comment. Only understanding and trust in God’s mercy for Wiesel.
Etty Hillesum, even though she lived in the midst of so many evils, including persecutions, was able to trust in God and maintain serenity within herself. There is a passage of hers that expresses this reality in a beautiful way:
“The jasmine behind my house has been completely ruined by the rains and storms of the past few days; its white blossoms are floating about in muddy black pools near the garage. But somewhere inside me the jasmine continues to blossom undisturbed just as profusely and delicately as ever it did. And it spreads its scent round your house, oh God.”
If unfortunately hell is all around us, let heaven be inside us. Let it be, Lord!