This pandemic shutdown is, if nothing else, a time for us to hit the “reset button” in our lives. As money and livelihoods are slipping away and diminishing, we remember that everything in this world is fleeting. As Ecclesiastes says, all is vanity! Our tenuous existence is a reminder that we need to keep our eyes on heaven — our true eternal home. This lockdown is an opportunity for us to focus more on the weightier things of life and eternity.
Here is one idea to contemplate: Everything we do of value in the eyes of God gains us eternal merit, reward, and glory in heaven for all eternity.
Each passing moment is a great opportunity for us, one of potentially eternal significance. From moment to moment, we have the ability to make deposits into our heavenly futures. Jesus urges as much, “lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Mt. 6:20) Many people work in the world to build up as much wealth as possible. We check endlessly the size and growth of our bank accounts and 401Ks. If this worldly wealth is here today and gone tomorrow, should we not work even more diligently for the wealth that endures forever? If we want to be greedy in this life, we should at least be greedy for the eternal things that matter most.
How do we build up these treasures in heaven? Jesus gives one hint, by urging us to do our good deeds and prayers in secret: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Mt. 6:6) By doing it just for God, it is God who will repay us. And, God sees all.
Each little action, word, deed, prayer, or sacrifice that we do in our mortal lives is recorded. Think of that. In each passing moment, God “time-stamps” an eternal recording of it. Each instant in time passes never to return again. However, we will see these time-stamped moments reviewed at our Last Judgment. They are the measure by which God will judge us. God calls the recorded actions of our lives the “Book of Life.” St. John gives testimony to this: “Also another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.” (Rev. 20:12) The Book of Life is like a balance sheet for our lives. Each bad deed and word is recorded as negative balance in the Book of Life, while each good deed, and prayer, and sacrifice as a profit.
Jesus speaks of these negative debts we will have to account for: “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Mt. 12:36) We will be held accountable for even a single careless word. That is a meticulous accounting! This should shock us to watch whatever we do at any given moment and not stumble, especially not carelessly taking the Lord’s name in vain. Moreover, mortal sin left on the balance sheet of our soul keeps us eternally in the red, in more senses than one, forever paying for that debt.
If every careless word is recorded and accounted for, then, likewise, every good word, prayer, sacrifice and deed is also recorded, and rewarded.
When we realize that everything we do has an eternal weight, it is a strong motivation to do what’s right and what’s good. It is a motivation to be holy. When you say a Rosary in the morning, realize that that time spent can never be taken away from you. It is now fixed forever in the Book of Life for you. If you pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy one afternoon, or fast one day, or contemplate the Stations of the Cross, or give alms to the needy, those too can never be taken away from your ledger recorded in the Book of Life.
Salvation is more than the balance sheet of our deeds and “gaining points,” this is true, but it is a part of it. What we do matters! Of course, faith in Christ, humility, love, and the sacraments are essential. However, we can build up our treasures in heaven by our prayers, deeds, and sacrifices as recorded in the Book of Life.
How can we know that God pays attention to us in such minute and particular detail? Jesus reveals this exquisitely detailed love of God for us that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Mt. 10:30) God loves us so much that each tiny individual hair on our head has a number! God notices every seemingly insignificant detail of our lives, more than we can ever imagine. If he has even catalogued the very hairs on our head, how much more does he notice all that we do out of love for him. God knows and appreciates every one of our intentions to please him while on our struggle to climb up the mountain of holiness.
Our perfect motivation should always be to strive to do good out of love for God alone. Love of God is our focus. As fallen beings, however, we know that we are also driven, to some degree, by selfishness and reasons of rewards. Jesus does not dismiss this as a motivation for us, but rather, encourages us to build up this spiritual treasure. I take this as a real heavenly treasure, not of gold or such, of course, but rather, an unimaginable light, joy, and holiness reflecting the glory of God — a partaking in the Beatific Vision. This treasure is what St. Paul references: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9) Our treasure is a kind of wonderful surprise awaiting us, if we but try to do the will of the Lord in this life.
So, let’s get to work building up those heavenly treasures that will last forever! As Jesus exhorts us: “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to his works.” (Rev. 22:12)