Although we labor for our temporal life we must not forget to labor for our eternal life. Religion obliges us to keep the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church. The man who obeys God and His Church, if he prays, hears the Word of God and frequently receives the Sacraments worthily, that person labors for eternal life.
I have heard of a lady who had a very strange dream. You know how strange most of our dreams are. And this was a strange dream. She was a very rich woman, and the people said that she was a very good woman. One night she dreamed that she went up to heaven and one of the angels showed her through the streets of the beautiful city. She saw such beautiful houses and palaces as she had never seen before. At last she came to one that was just being built. It was more beautiful than those around it, and she asked her guide whose it was. "Oh," said the angel, "that is for your gardener."
The lady was much surprised, and said : "For my gardener ! Why he is only a poor man and has always lived in a little bit of a house." The angel said nothing, but led her on through the streets and avenues of the city. Soon they came to a plain-looking house, low roofed and very simple. Of course it was beautiful, for everything is beautiful in heaven, but it was not like the other fine palaces she had seen. Then she asked the angel whose the little low cottage house was. The angel said, "This is to be your house." "Mine?"said the lady. "Why, I have always lived in a mansion down on the earth” "Yes, I know," said the angel, "but the Great Builder is doing the best He can with the material that is being sent up."
That is a strange dream, but you know what it means. We are all building our lives and characters for heaven, and we are doing it now. Every kind deed, and every true word and every beautiful thought dedicated to God are stones in the building. The kind of house we will live in will depend on the kind of stuff we are putting into our lives now.
There are many who do not labor for eternal life. They give way to curses and blasphemies, they desecrate Sundays and holidays, they are disobedient to their parents and grieve them; they live in enmity with their neighbors and commit frauds and injustices; they eat meat on Fridays and days of abstinence; they neglect to hear Mass on Sundays and holy days, and they keep away from confession and Holy Communion. Why are there so very many who do not labor for eternal life? It is simply because they never think of heaven, they never say to themselves: It is good to be in heaven. They do not consider what a great blessing heaven is, what unspeakable happiness the saints enjoy.
One day a little boy presented himself before the King of Cochin China, who was persecuting the Church and the Christians. He threw himself on his knees before him and asked permission to speak. The permission being granted, he said : "Mandarin, cut off
my head with the sword, that I may go to my country."
"Where is your country?" asked the judge. "It is in heaven," replied the child. "And where are your parents ?" "They are gone home to heaven, and I want to follow them. Oh, sir, give me a stroke with the sword and send me there too."
The mandarin was struck with admiration at the faith and courage of the boy, but refused to grant him his request. But this child received from God the glory of the martyrs on account of his great desire of being a martyr.
Our Divine Lord tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and the violent bear it away. A pious life has many pains and hardships. The Christian who conquers himself is a greater hero than the general who takes fortresses and subdues mighty kingdoms.
There was once a pious widow who did not enjoy much worldly wealth, but possessed that which is so much more precious, the one true Faith. She had a little daughter by the name of Dorothy, who, when she grew up to be a big girl, began to show signs of thoughtlessness, and many a time did the poor mother weep over the faults of her dear child.
When she was ten years old, her mother, although she was poor, sent her to a convent to live for a time under the care of the pious Sisters. Dorothy remained in the convent for two years, after which time she returned to her mother's home. But what a change had come over her during these two years. People who knew her before she went to the convent could not believe that she was the same girl.
She who had been so disobedient and idle was now an example to all her companions by her gentleness, patience, obedience and piety, although she was only a little more than twelve years old. In a short time the people came to know that she was really good.
The priest of the place was full of joy when he saw in his parish one who gave such good example. One day he said to Dorothy: "Tell me what has made you so good ?" "Father," she meekly answered, "I am not good, but I would like very much to be good, and I am trying very hard to be good. "When I was in the convent, one of the Sisters' asked me if I wanted to be good. I said: 'Yes Sister, I would like to be very pious.' 'Then,' said she, 'the easiest way to be pious is to take Jesus Christ for your model, and whatever you do, do it to please Him!'
So when I rise in the morning and say my prayers I think I see the Child Jesus rising when His mother called Him. When I am at work I think I see Jesus helping St. Joseph or Mary in the house; and when I am told to do anything I think I see my dear Jesus told by His Blessed Mother to do this or that, and that I see Him doing it immediately.' "But my child," said the priest, "when people were speaking against you, and calling you a hypocrite, did you not feel angry with them?" "Ah, dear Father," she replied, "that was a heavy cross; but the Sisters had told me that I would have many crosses to bear if I wanted to be good, so when I heard the falsehoods they were telling about me, and the names they called me, I remembered how the Jews called Jesus names and He said nothing, but only prayed to God for their forgiveness. So I did the same." "Then you do sometimes find it difficult to be good?" "Ah, yes, Father, sometimes I am very much tempted, and sometimes I become so very sad and weary that I often think that it is no use trying to be good. But then I remember that Jesus Himself was sometimes weary and sad, especially that time when He saw so many people turning their backs upon Him and leaving Him. Then I think Him saying to me: 'And you my daughter, are you also going to leave me? Surely you will not sin against me after I have been so good to you ?'
"Then I say, 'No, my God, I will never leave Thee. To whom should I go if I left Thee? I will love Thee in weariness as well as in joy till I die; but O my God, help me." "My dear child," said the priest, "you have learned your lesson well, and what is far better, you know how to practice it. Go on as you are doing, fight the good fight and you will have gained much merit for heaven."
What is better than to take Jesus as our model and do everything as Dorothy did for His sake? As long as we are in this world we must fight against sin and our own evil inclinations, and if we do that we shall one day see God in heaven; that is what is meant by the good fight.
The thought of the joys of heaven should encourage us in all our toil and sufferings. Say frequently: it is good to be in heaven. With this maxim on our lips and in our hearts we will be brave enough to toil and suffer and finally merit heaven.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921