How many of us believe that heaven is something that happens in the afterlife? If heaven is a place where God is, then heaven is in us now for as Christians we believe that at baptism, the Holy Spirit, who is the Trinity, comes and takes up residence within us. How amazing is that!
It is because of this that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are present within us. The Trinity is like a burning flame residing with us. He is beckoning us inward. He is calling us to himself. He calls to us so that he might teach us all truth. Jn 16:13. He calls us inward so that he might envelop us in the warmth of his love, and teach us how to live in peace and joy in the present. All we have to do has learned to turn to him who dwells within.
At the same time, it is not always that easy, is it? Just like the disciples and all the people who encountered Jesus, there is much within us that resists. We want to be our own masters. As much as a part of us longs for this union with him now, another part of us resists with everything that it has. So much of the spiritual journey has to do with allowing the Holy Spirit to heal this resistance. He can only do so if we give him permission on an on-going basis. He will not overcome our free will, and our free will is sometimes exercise by the one that longs for him, but, in the beginning, more by the one who resists.
While it is the Spirit’s job to deliver us from this resistance, we must participate. In effect, we must learn to let him replace our selfish love with selfless love. It is a process that lasts a lifetime. The Bible teaches us how to participate in this process. It is in living the way that Jesus teaches that we make ourselves open to the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. These teachings include living a life of virtue, a life of service, and a life of dying to self.
I would suggest that this process of dying to self means living in the awareness of now, and accepting everything as God’s will. He allows things to happen to us so that we might grow in holiness. I think it also means challenging ourselves in ways that help us live more fully the principles Jesus set forth in the Bible. For instance, by getting behind the slowest driver on the highway and surrendering our frustration, we grow in patience. When we quickly forgive the one who cut us off in traffic, we practice love. In so doing, we increase God’s forgiveness of us for when we pray the Our Father, we pray that he forgives us as we forgive others.
There are many ways in which we can learn to live more Christian lives. However, if we do so without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, our effort amounts to very little. In other words, when sitting behind a slow driver, if we are not with the Holy Spirit seeking peace, our efforts are not as effective as they otherwise would be. Again, I reiterate that we participate, but it is the Holy Spirit’s job to purge us of all that is unholy.
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit who dwells within you, and ask him to help you see the path to holiness. Ask him how you can better cooperate with him and learn to live in heaven today. Ask him to help you surrender to all that happens today, and to maybe even create a few instances of dying to self. Ask him to show you the truth of carrying your cross, of dying with Jesus in all the little things that happen to you today, and how in so doing you begin living in eternity today.