Phil 3:17 – 4:1
Where are you a citizen? Often I meet people who tell me that they are a(an) ________ – American with pride of their national heritage and of their current status as a United States Citizens. When we travel abroad we show our U.S. passports and know that it is a document that proves we are U.S. citizens, and gives us the comfort of knowing that while even in a foreign country our Government will help us if we need it. St. Paul reminds us that our true identity is “citizens of heaven.” We were issued our heavenly citizen papers on the day of our Baptism.
Being a citizen of Heaven is a privilege and a Blessing; it also gives us the responsibility to be faithful citizens. It is a sign of God’s love for us that our citizenship begins at Baptism. Our Heavenly Father sent his son to take on the punishment for our sins so as to take down the alienation of Original Sin that separated us from full union with God. Jesus revealed to us that his Father has adopt-ed us as Sons and daughters. God is our Father, Jesus is our Brother, and the Spirit sanctifies us in that Triune relationship. What would the response of friends, neighbors and even strangers be if we began claiming our citizenship by telling them, “I am a citizen of Heaven?” It would certainly get their attention, and it might even provide us with the opportunity to do some basic evangelization. It is also a good way for us to remind ourselves, first and foremost, we are citizens of Heaven.
Some of the privileges we are given are receiving the Sacrament, in particular the Lord himself in the Eucharist, being able to approach God as His sons and daughters and to address him in prayer as, “Our Father,” and the ultimate privilege we receive as citizens of heaven is the opportunity for eternal life with Christ. We are given a glimpse of this in the Gospel with the account of the Trans-figuration. Peter, James and John saw a “change of appearance”, “dazzling white” clothing, Moses and Elijah, glory, and the voice of the Father. I suspect that St. Luke was not able to give an adequate account of that experience; after all, how could he begin to describe the infinite glory of this vision of eternity? The privilege of eternal life leads to an eternity of being in the presence of God, and of being changed from our mortal bodies to bodies that will conform with Christ’s glorified body. This gives us much to look forward to.
Lent is the season for us to see how we are living as citizens of heaven, and how we are preparing for the privileges that come with that. We began Lent with the three-fold call from Christ to pray, fast, and give alms. During Lent we tend to be mindful of these and even to take on different practices to help us in our journey through Lent. Lent, however, is not just a preparation for Easter Sunday, 2016, it is a preparation for our Easter, whenever that might be. It is a preparation that should not be limited to forty days, but rather the rest of our lives. As citizens of Heaven we have the responsibility to live each day in faithfulness to our Baptismal promises. We each have our own struggles, temptations and sins: our responsibility is to face them, repent of our sins and strive to be more faithful. In this way we will be faithful citizens of Heaven.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.