Who wants to go to Heaven?

Keeping with tradition, as we begin each November talking about All Saints and All Souls, I asked our youth group (mostly middle school students) the following questions: ‘“Who wants to become a saint?” Only four from the group raised their hands. Then I asked them, “Who wants to go to Heaven?” A unanimous response was what I received. Interesting, isn’t it? 

The wanting to go to Heaven is undeniable. However, the road to get there is a mystery to many. Or is it? Why are young people “embarrassed” to live a saintly life, or, at least claim to want to become a saint? Each year at this time I share a story with young people about how we can become a saint. 

There was a professor of philosophy at USC who was a deeply committed atheist. His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester attempting to prove that God couldn’t exist. His students were always afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic. For 20 years, he had taught this class and no one had ever had the courage to go against him. Sure, some had argued in class at times, but no one had ever really gone against him because of his reputation. At the end of every semester on the last day, he would say to his class of 300 students, “If there is anyone here who still believes in Jesus, stand up!” In 20 years, no one had ever stood up. They knew what he was going to do next. He would say, “Anyone who believes in God is a fool. If God existed, He could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that He is God, and yet He can’t do it.” And every year, he would drop the chalk onto the tile floor of the classroom and it would shatter into a hundred pieces. All of the students would do nothing but stop and stare. Most of the students thought that God couldn’t exist. Certainly, a number of Christians had slipped through, but for 20 years, they had been too afraid to stand up.    

Well, a few years later there was a freshman who happened to enroll. He was a Christian, and had heard the stories about his professor. He was required to take the class for his major, and he was afraid. But for three months that semester, he prayed every morning that he would have the courage to stand up no matter what the professor said or what the class thought. Nothing they said could ever shatter his faith, he hoped.  

Finally, the day came. The professor said, “ If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!” The professor and the class of 300 people looked at him, shocked, as he stood up at the back of the classroom. The professor shouted, “You fool! If God existed, He would keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hits the ground!” He proceeded to drop the chalk, but as he did, it slipped out of his fingers, off his shirt cuff, onto the pleat of his pants, down his leg, and off his shoe. As it hit the ground it simply rolled away unbroken. The professor’s jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk. He looked up at the young man, and then ran out of the lecture hall.  

The young man who had stood proceeded to walk to the front of the room and shared his faith in Jesus for the next half hour. Three hundred students stayed and listened as he told of God’s love for them and of His power through Jesus.    

Could you respond and stand up with the courage of that young man and profess your faith in God? What he did was nothing short of being wholly holy — a Christian attitude of living a saintly life. There are so many among us living with this attitude.

It’s this same courage that allows us the firmness of mind that is required in doing well and fighting evil. This is the gift that helped the Apostles leave the upper room. You see, the Apostles were afraid that people would make fun of them and laugh at them because Jesus, the Person they were claiming to be their Messiah, had left them. Courage allowed them to overcome that fear just as you can when others are keeping silent about their faith or making fun of you for your beliefs. Courage will help you fight the good fight of faith.

Courage helps you to recognize and rejoice in God’s glory. In doing so you will be reminded that your goal is to live a good life, a saintly life, so you will spend eternity with God. How awful a thought to think that I would not see God forever. “Give glory to God, praise His name and announce His Salvation day after day!” (Ps 96). 

Desire to become a saint. It’s the attitude that confirms our wanting to go to Heaven.

God bless!

Anchor columnist Ozzie Pacheco is Faith Formation director at Santo Christo Parish, Fall River.

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