Both in the world and in heaven

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WHEN Christ asked Peter about who should earthly kings require census tax, from the subjects or from the foreigners, obviously the answer which Peter gave was from foreigners. Christ was somehow insinuating that being the son of God, he should be exempted from that tax. But no. He also paid the tax so as not to make offense to earthly kings. (cfr. Mt 17,22-27)

With this gospel episode, we are somehow reminded how we ought to live by our earthly and temporal condition but without losing sight of our eternal goal. In other words, we have to learn, even now, how to live both in the world and in heaven.

This is, of course, a big challenge since we always have the strong tendency, due to our wounded human condition, to be trapped and swallowed up by our earthly affairs and forgetting our ultimate eternal goal.

Resolving this predicament would require of us, first of all, that we be clear about the unity of heaven and the world according to the mind of God, our Father and Creator. We are in this world as the training and testing ground to see if we too want to be with God. That’s what God wants us to be. But he does not force us to be so because we have been given freedom due to our being image and likeness of God.

We have to learn how to be in this world while directing ourselves towards heaven, where we actually come from since we come from God and not just from our parents, and where we are supposed to go as our definitive home.

This is where we have to develop the virtue of naturalness. It is something to do with how to handle our human condition considering what we ought to be and what we are at the moment. Fact is, we have a supernatural goal, nothing less than to be united with God, which we have to pursue in the context of our human and natural world.

Naturalness is about how to mix the spiritual and material dimensions of our life, our personal and social aspects, and other elements in our life that, given the way we are, appear to compete with each other. How to integrate and harmonize them is the task of naturalness.

Naturalness is a very active affair, lived day to day, moment to moment, as we grapple with the continuous flow of our concerns. It’s the front man who does the dirty job of the bigger virtues of discretion, prudence and ultimately charity, the foot soldier who does the hand-to-hand combat, the peddler who does the door-to-door selling.

The big danger we have nowadays is precisely to get trapped in the many wonders that we are enjoying these days, in spite of the pandemic. We have tremendous technologies, and the amount of knowledge and skills derived from our sciences, though with their limitations and imperfections, is huge and intoxicating. We always have the tendency that these things can be considered as our be-all and end-all.

To be sure, to meditate on heaven often does not take away our sense of realism and objectivity. The contrary would be the case if it is done properly. We would know the relative value of everything good and lovable in this world.

And if our loving would involve suffering, as it usually does, our meditation on heaven would convince us that such suffering is worthwhile!