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Archbishop Fulton Sheen on Advent and Eternity

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Through the Year with Fulton Sheen
is Sheen at his best—the master storyteller, preacher, and faithful servant of Christ—with a word of encouragement, counsel, and direction for each day of the year. With characteristic insight and eloquence, he penetrates to the heart of the Christian life with practical reflections on love, holiness, spiritual power, miracles, and Christ-like living. These daily selections provide a fresh perspective on what it means to be a follower of Christ, on the challenge of serving God and the blessings of living a grace-filled life.

Here are the daily selections for the second week of Advent.

Eternity | December 5

Why must heaven be outside of time? Simply because none of us would want an endless existence on this earth. If it were possible for us to live four hundred years with some kind of vitamin, do you think that we would all swallow them? There would certainly come one moment in our existence when we would want to die. Have you ever been in any one place on this earth that you were absolutely sure would be one in which you would want to spend every day of your life? It is not very likely. The mere extension of time to most of us would probably be a curse instead of a blessing. Then, too, have you ever noticed that your happiest moments have come when eternity almost seems to get inside of your soul? All great inspirations are timeless, and that gives us some suggestion of heaven. Mozart was once asked when he received his inspirations for his great music. He said he saw them all at once in a great heat, a great warmth, a great light. Then there came the succession of notes. So it is in writing a speech. When I prepare a talk, or a telecast, or a book, there comes a moment when the end is seen at the beginning. One cannot write fast enough. There comes to everyone, whether he is good or bad, some dim intimations of immortality such as Wordsworth wrote about. There are, however, men who try to immunize themselves from these thoughts of eternity. They put on a kind of God-proof raincoat, so that the drops of his grace will not get through to them. They shut out eternity.

Heaven is in here | December 6

Too often we think of heaven as being way out there. We draw all kinds of pictures about heaven. Most of them are quite unreal, and because we think of heaven, and even hell, as something that happens to us at the end of time, we keep on postponing it. As a matter of fact, heaven is not way out there; heaven is in here. Hell is not way down there; hell could be inside of a soul. There is no such thing as dying and then going to heaven, or dying and going to hell. You are in heaven already; you are in hell already. I have met people who are in hell. I am sure you have too. I have also seen people with heaven in them. If you ever want to see heaven in a child, look at that child on the day of his first communion. If you want to see how much love is related to heaven, just look at the bride and groom at the altar on the day of the nuptial Mass. Heaven is there; heaven is there because love is there. I have seen heaven in a missionary nun who was spending herself among the lepers.

Sometimes you see a virtuous young person and you see heaven there. The beauty of such a person is not put on the outside, it is a kind of imprisoned loveliness that comes from within, as if it were breaking down the bars of flesh in order to find some outward utterance.

A man who wanted to go to hell | December 7

I remember once attending a man in a hospital. When I asked him to make his peace with God he said, "I suppose you’re going to tell me I’m going to hell."

"No," I said, "I’m not."

"Well," he said, "I want to go to hell."

I replied, "I have never in my life met a man who wanted to go to hell, so I think I will just sit here and watch you go." Of course, I did not intend to let time pass without doing something, but I was absolutely sure that if he had a few minutes to himself, he might change his point of view. So I sat alone with him for twenty minutes. I could see him going through a kind of soul struggle.
Then he said to me, "You really believe there is a hell?"

I asked him, "Do you feel unhappy on the inside? Are you fearful? Is there dread, anxiety? Are all the evil things of your life coming up before you as a specter, a ghost?" Well, it was not long until he made his peace with God.

Why the virgin birth? | December 8

Our human nature was very much like a polluted stream up until the Incarnation. Imagine a ship, for example, sailing in polluted waters. It wishes to sail in clear waters, but without the pollution coming from one into the other. How could the transfer of the ship be made except by a lock? So the ship in the foul waters would be put into a lock where there would be a separation of waters, then the ship would be raised to the level of the unpolluted waters. Now the Immaculate Conception and the virgin birth were that lock. The pollution stopped because there was no union of man and woman. It was simply woman alone who gave a human nature to Christ and began the new humanity.

Heaven grows in us | December 9

Heaven is very close to us because heaven is related to a good life in much the same way that an acorn is related to an oak. An acorn is bound to become an oak. He who does not have heaven in his heart now will never go to heaven, and he who has hell in his heart when he dies will go to hell. We must not think that heaven is related to a good life in the same way a gold medal is related to study. Because a gold medal need not follow study. It is purely extrinsic to study. Rather, heaven is related to a good and virtuous life in just the same way that knowledge is related to study. One necessarily follows the other. Hell is not related to an evil life in the same way that spanking is related to an act of disobedience. Spanking need not follow an act of disobedience. As a matter of fact, it rarely follows disobedience today. Rather, it is related in the same way that corruption is related to death. One necessarily follows the other. Therefore, heaven is not just a long way off, we are not to postpone it. It is here. That is to say, it begins here.

Like the Israelites in the desert | December l0

Heaven starts here, but it doesn’t end here. We just get faint glimpses of it now and then. If we postpone the thought of heaven until the moment we die, we will be very much like the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert. They were at one time within about eleven days of the promised land. It took only three weeks for them to make the journey from Egypt to the promised land, but because of their disobedience, their failures, their backsliding, and their rebellion against Moses, it took them forty years to get into the promised land. That forty years represents a pilgrimage in the lives of most of us. We make progress, and then we slip back. Thank heavens we have a merciful Lord who puts up with us and forgives us seventy times seven. Therefore, time is necessary in order to gain heaven, but the lapse of time itself does not bring me to heaven. What brings me to heaven is how I live, how I die.

I go to prepare a place | December 11

Now we come to what our Lord said about heaven. It was the night of the Last Supper. Jesus gathered about him all his apostles-poor, weak, frail men. He washed their feet. He was facing the agony in the garden, and that terrible betraying kiss of Judas, and even the denial of Peter himself. One would think that all the talk would be about himself. Certainly, when we have trials, that is what we think about. But our Lord thought about the apostles. He saw the sadness in their faces, and he said, "Be not troubled, do not be sad, I go to prepare a place for you. In my father’s house there are many mansions." How did he know about the Father’s house? He came from there. That was his home. Now preparing to go back home, he tells them about the Father’s house and he says, "I go to prepare a place for you." God never does anything for us without great preparation. He made a garden for Adam, as only God knows how to make a garden beautiful. Then, when the Jews came into the promised land, he prepared the land for them. He said he would give them houses full of good things, houses which they never built. He said that he would give them vineyards and olive trees which they never planted. just so, he goes to prepare a place for us. Why? Simply because we were not made for heaven; we were made for earth. Man, by sin, spoiled the earth, and God came down from heaven in order to help us remake it. After having redeemed us, he said that he would now give us heaven, so we got all this: the earth, and heaven too.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) is considered by many to be the most influential Catholic of the 20th century in America. Millions of people watched his incredibly popular television series every week, "Life is Worth Living", and millions more listened to his radio program, "The Catholic Hour". Wherever he preached in public, standing-room-only crowds packed churches and halls to hear him. He had the same kind of charisma and holiness that attracts so many people to Pope John Paul II, who called Sheen "a loyal son of the Church." Learn more about Archbishop Sheen by reading his autobiography, Treasure In Clay, or visiting the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation website.

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