The ripples of sacramentality

Christ_cleans_leper_manNaaman the Leper seemingly appears in our midst from nowhere. We read about how he went down to the Jordan River, went into it, and is healed of his illness. Then he goes home. The scripture writers are nothing if not efficient in the way they tell stories. Much of the context that helps us understand the events of the story are buried in seemingly insignificant details, and often the writers are not concerned at all with drawing out a full character. Introspective characters with internal monologues can get in the way of the thrust of the story, and so in the ancient world stories tend to focus on actions and words, not feelings and thoughts. However, a careful reader can pick up quite a bit from what’s at the surface level. The scriptures are highly sophisticated in terms of literary structure and there is always more than meets the eye if we can work from the outside in.

There is much more to this particular story, and happily there is plenty more detail than our Mass reading covers. It turns out that Naaman is a commander in the army of the Arameans, a group of people who were at least occasionally hostile to the Israelites. Naaman himself had a servant girl he had captured during a raid in Israel. It is she who suggests that he go to the Prophet Elisha in Israel to be healed of his disease.

Naaman agrees to go, and he first approaches the King of Israel. Naaman says that he has arrived to have his disease cured, and the Israeli King rips up his robes in frustration. Leprosy was uncurable at the time, and so the King thinks that he’s being set up. He thinks the Arameans are making an impossible demand that, when he fails to accomplish it, the Arameans can use as a pretext to start a war. Elisha hears of the problem and sends a messenger to fetch Naaman, so Naaman goes to Elisha’s house but, when his chariot pulls up, Elisha doesn’t even come out. Instead, he sends a messenger out and tells Naaman to go down to the Jordan River and bath in it seven times. Naaman is furious. He says that a prophet of God should come out to meet him with great prayers and wave his hands like a magician. He expects fireworks, but instead is told to go jump in a river.

And that is where our Mass reading picks up. Naaman decides he has nothing to lose, goes to the river, and is healed. The scriptures say that his skin becomes like that of a youth. He goes to thank Elisha and ends up taking a pile of dirt home with him, which seems odd until you realize that in the ancient world altars were often built of dirt, so what he is doing is establishing a place of worship back home for the one, true God. The miracle causes a total conversion of heart.

The scriptures are full of shadows and echoes. The Bible was written by 35 different authors over the course of 1000 years, and yet we constantly encounter ways in which one part of the scriptures speak to another. These echoes build and build throughout the narrative until, finally, with the advent of Christ, they are birthed into a solid reality. Throughout the Bible, from the very first words, sacramentality, the way that God adds grace to our lives, is coming to fruition. The story of our salvation echoes back and forth through the story as it is gathered up into the one, great spoken Word that God the Father breathes out, the Word, in Greek, the Logos, the logical and inevitable procession of history towards its creator, Jesus Christ. He speaks and we are created.

This is the meaning of the journey we are on as we follow along with the Scriptures. It’s a journey by which we discover how much God loves us and how he brings us into his story. He is speaking to us and even writing it with us. Stories all have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The interesting thing about the Scriptures is that the end is in the middle, and there are ripples before and ripples after, showing how disruptive the great revelation of Jesus Christ our Savior really is. Once God has taken on human flesh and joined creation, nothing can ever be the same. He is the center of history and the heart of the story.

Here’s how Naaman fits in. In the beginning, the earth is born from the waters, which is a metaphor for the womb. Noah is delivered through the waters and into a New Covenant with God. The Israelites escape Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea and into a new life in the Promised Land. The Israelite priests, in order to be made spiritually clean, would ritually bath themselves in water before going to minister in the Temple. Finally, all these foreshadows are revealed in all their glory with the Sacrament of Baptism when Our Lord is baptized in the Jordan River.

Naaman also enters the water and is reborn. So too are we born again in the waters of Baptism. St. Paul is describing baptism when he says, “If we have died with him, we will also live with him.” Namaan is physically healed in a foreshadow of baptism, an act which is revealed by Christ to be much more important, because baptism is a spiritual healing, a rebirth, a cleansing from sin. A person who is baptized is always prepared for worship in the house of God, always worthy to make a sacrifice. The health of our spirit and the state of our eternal soul is much more important than physical health.

The healing isn’t at all what Naaman expects it to be like, and for us this is also true. We expect great, spiritual fireworks when we receive God’s grace, but grace works quietly. It isn’t the water that is magical. It isn’t the priest who is supposed to make a big show. It isn’t how overwhelmed we are by our emotions. It is the fact that we meet Christ in the water, and it is he who makes us clean. The tenth leper who Jesus healed understood this, and he returns to Jesus to thank him. This is the whole point of the sacraments. It isn’t about power, or wealth, or physical well-being, it is to meet Our Lord, to be saved, to be made spiritually clean, have our sins forgiven.

God is telling a story. It is a true story. It’s about how his grace enters our lives, maybe not in the way we expected, but when it arrives, we find that everything around us, absolutely everything, speaks of his love and his healing power.


You are the eavesdropper

robert-clara-2Out in the landscaping in front of the Church, there is a mulberry tree. No one planted it. It grew there all on its own, right up through a yew, so a few years ago I chopped it down. Every spring, that mulberry keeps growing back. Our Lord says that a person with faith can uproot a mulberry tree, so perhaps this particular tree is teaching me a lesson. Either that, or I’m currently getting a landscaping guy to bring a stump grinder and pulverize it.

Faith is a mysterious virtue. We don’t see it the way we see other virtues. It’s underground, biding its time, patiently waiting. A merciful person or a kind person is easily identifiable, but a person with strong faith may remain hidden. And yet, St. Paul says it is one of the greatest of the virtues along with hope and love. Still, it is a mustard seed, a seemingly insignificant thing. Capable of growing into greatness, this we believe, but so hard to identify and nurture.

Faith is precious, a treasure to be guarded with the fullness of the sacramental ministry. This is what St. Paul says to St. Timothy. Timothy is an ordained minister of the Church, and Paul reminds him that he must guard his people’s faith with his life. Paul himself would practice what he preached, eventually being put under arrest and martyred because he dared to teach the faith. There’s a clue here about how to strengthen our faith such that not even the most serious threat will shake it, which is to make use of the graces of the Church, attend Mass, hear the Word of God, reverently receive the Eucharist, go to confession. The sacraments are how we give our children the gift of faith, first through baptism and then through confirmation.

Paul talks about these graces like they are an ember, a spark placed deep within the human soul. That spark may smolder quietly for a lifetime, or it just may catch fire if we are bold enough to stir it up.

It seems to me that, once we connect the dots that it is the sacraments which enkindle faith, it also becomes clear that there is a necessary connection between faith and love, because at heart, the sacraments impart God’s love, and when we speak of the infusion of faith in baptism, it is through the loving action of the Holy Spirit. This means that a faith which is living and active will also be a faith that is united with love. It is personal.

Robert Schumann was a musician in the mid-19th century, one of the greatest of the romantic composers who created music that makes you grateful to be alive. It’s atmospheric and melancholic and when I listen to it I sense that he was a sensitive man with a heart too big for this restless world. He suffered from acute mental disabilities and ended up dying at the age of 46 in an asylum. At a young age, though, he met the love of his life, a woman named Clara who was a gifted pianist. They often communicated their love through music, and Robert told Clara that all music reveals the glory of creation which is why it affects us so much. When a piece of music really grabs us, what we hear is later indescribable in words, we only know it has affected us. Music, wrote Robert to Clara, is, “one quiet note, played for a secret eavesdropper.” Along with the note he sent a song he had written for her to play on the piano, a gorgeous piece, the Opus n.19, a song about wildflowers, and he told her, “You are the eavesdropper.”

Imagine that God is saying this to you. He speaks softly, often on the wings of silence, but what he says is for you alone. You are the eavesdropper. If you listen closely, you will hear the Word, God-made-flesh, and he speaks of a fearsome love that will accept the Cross if it must, because that is how much you mean to him. He will bury himself like a mustard seed, biding his time until he can arise. His faith in us has become very personal indeed.

“Increase our faith,” beg the disciples. Jesus shows them how. It isn’t in superficial, flashy gestures that ultimately mean nothing. Faith is quiet. It whispers. It is intimately connected with love. St Therese of Lisieux, knowing that her faith was modest, worried. She wasn’t a prophet, or teacher, or miracle worker. She had no great gifts. But she realized that the beating heart of the Church is love, and that she could place herself very near that heart by becoming love. In this way her faith would be strengthened, and so, very excited, Therese ran off to increase her faith by sweeping the floors of the convent.

If faith is a mustard seed, it’s in the small things. The choices we make everyday. God has placed you right where you are, in just the right spot. Only you can love the people around you in your own particular way. Only you.

George Eliot wrote one of the great novels of English literature, Middlemarch. This is how it ends: “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Your life really matters. Through your life, lived with faith and drawing strength from the love of Christ, you can change the world. Faith, as quiet as it may seem, is capable of uprooting a mulberry and tossing it into the sea. This is a metaphor, not for the flashy but ultimately meaningless magic of flinging trees from your landscaping, but it points to a much more impressive miracle, the miracle that occurs inside of us when we develop faith. When united with God’s great love, it becomes the virtue that earns us entrance into the gates of heaven.

Timequake and the trap of time

Meister_des_Codex_Aureus_Epternacensis_001I’m re-reading a book right now called Timequake, written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1996. Some of you may have been forced to read his book Slaughterhouse-Five in high school English class. That one is about a man named Billy Pilgrim who becomes unstuck in time. Vonnegut struggles with the idea of free-will, how it is that we are able to make choices independent of the normal flow of the universe around us. In Slaughterhouse-Five, he invents a new philosophy held by an alien species, and when Billy Pilgrim complains, “Why me?” that he has become unstuck in time and no longer understands how the past relates the future, the aliens reply, “Why you?…Why anything?” A person who floats back and forth through time might struggle with basic concepts. For instance, a person who dies isn’t really gone, because the past, present, and future are all jumbled up, so there’s always a time when that person is alive. Vonnegut writes, “Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say…So it goes.”

Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five when he was in the prime of his life in 1969. By the time he wrote Timequake, he was an old man still struggling with the concept of free-will. Timequake is a story about how, in the year 2001, the universe had a crisis of self-confidence and decided to begin contracting instead of expanding. The universe made it all the way back to 1991 before it changed its mind and began expanding again. Everyone in the universe was forced to re-live those 10 years exactly like the first time.

If we were timequaked from today, it would be 2009 again, the year I finally decided to become a Catholic. If the Rich Man in the Parables of Lazarus – often given the name Dives – could be timequaked back to his life so he could do everything again, he would jump at the chance. Even if he could simply become unstuck in time and return back to warn his family to live better lives, he would do that, too.

I hope that, when we look back on our lives, we do so with happiness and contentment. There are always the difficult days, hard years, deaths, moments I very much doubt we would want to live again. But there are also the celebrations, the time with family roasting s’mores around a bonfire, watching your child out on Msgr. Sullivan field getting a hit in t-ball and running to the wrong base. There’s the moment your baby became a toddler by taking a first step, the moment you met the love of your life. You look back at a picture of your first house and all the memories it brings back, a picture of when your daughter was in the kindergarten ballet. If we could, would we go back and change anything?

As Dives learns, we couldn’t change our past even if we wanted. Those choices were ours. They are the path we have chosen, freely taken because, as Christians, we understand that this universe exists in the womb of God’s love. It was birthed from chaotic darkness when the Holy Spirit hovered like a dove over the waters and he, in a great act of love on the part of the Trinity, breathed order and elegant beauty out of the void. This means that our choices, our decisions, are guaranteed by God to be free, completely ours, so that if we use that freedom to choose to love him in return, it is genuine love.

The catch is, we only get to go round once. We can reminisce, but we can’t go back.

Mark Twain says, “When I find a well-drawn character in fiction or biography, I generally take a warm personal interest in him, for the reason that I have known him before—met him on the river…”

“The river, of course, is life,” Kurt Vonnegut says, “Mark Twain is saying what Christ said in so many ways: that he could not help loving anyone in the midst of life.” It’s funny, both of those authors are famous religious skeptics, but both understood that in the absence of God, there is very little basis for the idea of free-will. If there is no God, then we are unstuck in time, powerless to make our own decisions and swept along by the river of time because, with no God, with no human soul animating the body, then all we are is bodies. The body is physical and so must be governed by physical explanations. It is the human soul alone, the divine spark in each one of us from the moment of conception, that brightens the darkness and reveals a higher reality of love by which we can indeed say that we have well and truly lived.

St. Paul made a choice. In his youth he was a religious radical, a pharisee so zealous for the Jewish Law that he was willing to murder people to protect it. He helped murder St. Stephen, or at least he watched with approval, holding the coats of the men who threw the rocks that broke the saint’s bones. Later, after he made a choice so dramatic that it required he be given a new name, he himself was martyred. His head was chopped off in the year 66 by the Roman government. I don’t think he regretted his choices. He wasn’t allowed to go back and avoid his death, but while alive he had the freedom to choose love. And he loved Jesus so much he couldn’t wait to follow him into the next life.

Before he leaves, though, he gives his protege, St. Timothy, some advice. “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” In other words, make a choice, make your confession, and hold on for dear life.

For St. Paul, his choice was to live a meaningful life and even a meaningful death. For Kurt Vonnegut, death was a befuddlement. He would often joke when a loved one died that “they’re up in heaven now,” but he didn’t mean it. He didn’t know what else to say. He worried that time is devouring us and we are helpless before it. Even if we could timequake, he thinks, we wouldn’t like it because we’d be trapped. The implication being that perhaps we are trapped right now.

The parable of Lazarus reveals to us that we are not trapped. Time flows relentlessly forward, yes, but each moment is pregnant with freedom – the freedom to choose love, the freedom to direct our steps. We only get to life our lives once, but we get to live it with Jesus. When I look back, for instance, to the death of my grandfather last year. I am sad. I miss him. But I know that his life and his death had meaning, because each moment was held in the hand of God.

If life is a river, it is Jesus who meets us in the midst of it. He has jumped in with both feet, and having met us, he cannot help but to love us.

The strangest parable in the Bible

300px-Teachings_of_Jesus_31_of_40._parable_of_the_unjust_steward._Jan_Luyken_etching._Bowyer_BibleI didn’t take any economics classes in seminary, but the way Our Lord describes how a business works doesn’t seem quite right to me. In college, I was a waiter at IHOP. It was great. I’d take late night shifts and all sorts of odd characters would come in – a guy clad head-to-toe in a purple suit and shoes with a lady who had a fake bird on her hat, a guy who insisted that we essentially iron the bacon so that it was perfectly flat. If it wasn’t perfectly flat he would send it back – Anyway, I bring it up because I remember the managers were very clear with us (repeatedly) that we were not to give free stuff away to our friends for the very obvious reason that doing so would ruin the profits of the restaurant. In this parable, the unjust steward is basically giving free pancakes to everyone.

To me, it’s one of the strangest parables in the Bible. There’s a property manager, often called the Unjust Steward, who is so bad at his job that he’s about to be fired because he’s destroying his master’s business. He has to think fast, so this previously incompetent man comes up with a devious plan. Seeing that the end is near, he prepares by giving away his master’s wealth to those who owe debts. He hopes this will win him friends and open up a new job after he’s fired. The master, amazingly, approves of this action once he learns of it. So, is Jesus really telling us to lie and cheat at work? I think not.

He’s pointing out that, when it comes to acquiring wealth, when it comes to getting ahead, even when it comes to practicing evil, many, many people are willing to go to great lengths. Evil people can be brilliant. Think about how we’re all addicted to pumpkin spice lattes now; some evil genius has tricked us and we’re powerless to stop it.

I remember all the work I would go to in high school to avoid homework. I would make up excuses, try to get extensions, frantically copy someone else’s work minutes before class and then feel guilty about it later. I would procrastinate and try to slide by and in the end spent enormous amounts of energy to be a bad student. If I had just done the homework the night before it would have been so much easier. By the time I was in grad school, I’d wised up and would start working on my term papers right away until, by the end of the semester when everyone else was crushing energy drinks and hooking themselves up to IV drips full of espresso so they could sit in the library and write papers for 100 hours straight, I’d be chilling with all my papers already complete. I think most of us know it’s super stressful to procrastinate, and yet we do it all the time, full well knowing it creates a debt we’re going to have to painfully pay off at the deadline.

Our Lord is saying, “Hey, guys, if someone is willing to do all this work for something unimportant, how much more so should you be willing to work on the one, truly important aspect of your life – the state of your soul?” We should work, and plan, and think about who we are and where we are going, put that time and energy into our relationship with God. The Unjust Steward is suddenly confronted with his end, and so he begins to make arrangements. We can ignore it all we want, but we should in some small way at least take account of our end every day. Every breath is precious, each one a gift, and it could all be gone in an instant. Are you ready? A wise person will prepare now, begin building up wealth in heaven.

Underlying this whole parable is the concept of sin as a debt. In the Lord’s Prayer we say this every day, “Forgive us our debts.” Like debt, sin is due to be judged and a demand is made on it. It does not escape a fair repayment, so each time we sin we pile up an obligation that will have to be paid for. Friends, we are in debt up to our eyeballs.

If Our Lord encourages us to build up treasure in heaven and serve God alone, it is equally true that we cannot complete the transaction on our own – and he knows this. Because our sins are so great, we cannot pay back all that we owe as much as we might try. This is why we can also understand that the Steward is Jesus. He is merciful. He is the one who forgives our debts and, for this action, his Master God the Father is highly approving.

In Luke’s Gospel, this parable comes on the heels of three other parables, each one concerning the quality of mercy when extended to sinners – the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. The Pharisees had been criticizing him, saying that he was too easy on sinners. When we read about the Steward, we immediately have a similar reaction – he’s cheating, it’s unfair, it isn’t just. And this is true, because Our Lord fulfills justice through mercy. The debt is paid, but he’s the one who pays it. He takes wealth from his own sacred heart and disperses it prodigally and gratuitously.

Our Lord patiently teaches us about the quality of mercy. He will search out even a single one of us who is lost. As a father, he will forgive and welcome a wasteful, arrogant son who repents. He will pay our debts.

We are guests in his house. It seems to me that his generosity has created in us an obligation, that if he forgives our debts, then we are to likewise forgive the debts of others. We are to emulate his stewardship by extending mercy and forgiveness, by gaining friendship with heaven, by relying on the good will of the Master. From the dust he lifts up the lowly. It isn’t fair, but that is precisely the point.

The connection between abuse of people and abuse of the Eucharist

5c4c492c2bed1154ae5a5545c740da48Here at Epiphany, visitors frequently find me after Mass and comment that the worship here feels different, that it is easy to concentrate on prayer here. I love the feedback because it reminds me how blessed I am to be involved with this parish. Worship, the way we pray at Mass, is extremely important. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, so it is vital that we get our worship right if we want our overall faith to remain true.

Our Old Testament reading makes this concern very clear. God tells Moses that the Israelites, “have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf.” God’s anger burns against them because they have abandoned true worship. This foreign worship has led them into idolatry. The lesson is that the pattern of worship handed down by the Church actually helps protect us from heresy, from abandoning the faith. The Mass isn’t simply a made-up ritual that we tinker with; it is the result of truth and beauty shaping our devotion over centuries and centuries until it began to reflect God himself.

This is why the Church closely guards the way we say Mass. We in particular are guided by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which was a meeting of all the world’s bishops in the 1960s. A few of the features that visitors often note here are our use of some Latin and some chant. Why? Because Latin is the official language of the Church, it is a universal language that connects us with our Catholic brethren all over the world, and most importantly, Vatican II says, “Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” We also use some chant here. Why? Because chant is the musical language of the Church. It is calm, peaceful, and carries with it a sense of the eternal beauty of God. And again, most importantly, we do it because the Second Vatican Council tells us to chant. It says, “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore…it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

This obedience is what visitors are actually noticing. They may not always know how to express it, but the obedience leads to reverence for the Eucharist and a strengthening of the communal nature of our worship. You may notice that I follow the Mass rubrics, which are the rules that tell me how to handle myself around the altar, extremely carefully. I am highly detail-oriented. Why? Because the level of care we put into something reveals our love. The Eucharist is a jewel and my job is to set that jewel into a beautiful display so its true worth becomes apparent to anyone who sees it. If a visitor is here who knows nothing about the Christianity, simply by watching us pray, he should leave knowing one thing, that the Eucharist is sacred.

A few years ago, a young man was ordained from this parish, Michael Lampe. After Mass once, his mom paid me perhaps the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. She said that her son, Fr. Lampe, and I say Mass so similarly that she sees her son at the altar when I say Mass. That makes me so happy, not only because Fr. Lampe is amazing and I want to be just like him, but because both of us follow the rubrics carefully, so it’s no longer an individual personality celebrating the Mass – it is a priest. Full stop. The only difference is that I don’t wear socks. The priesthood, through obedience and reverence, becomes a servant of Christ and reveals him to the faithful.

This reverence protects us from wandering away from God and from other moral failings, which is why we must protect the liturgy. A few months back, when the list of abusive priests from the archdiocese was released, we were all asked to preach about it. I’d already preached on it once and wasn’t relishing the idea of talking about it again. Here’s what I want to say, though – there is a connection between clericalist priests who abuse people, and abuse of the Eucharist. I’m not saying you can, or should, judge a priest based on the way he says Mass, certainly not on whether you like his homilies or he forgets a line of the mass or you have trouble hearing him – that’s not what I mean. What I am saying is that, if a priest offers a reverent, holy Mass, if he tries to follow the rules of worship that the Church has handed down, if he is obedient and tries to love Jesus the best he can, it is a great help to him and his people. If a priest make the mass all about him, breaks the rubrics whenever he wants, and is careless with the Eucharist, that leaves the door open to other compromises. The way I see it is that, if we would treat other people with reverence, we first start with Our Lord.

Pope Benedict makes this connection, too. He published a letter not too long ago about the priest abuse scandal in which he says, among many other things, “Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern…We must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.” The point is that, if we are willing to abuse the Eucharist through carelessness or treating it merely as a symbol, that creates a ripple effect. And if priests are willing to violate rules when it comes to the central task of their ordination, that is a cause for worry. Our lives must have integrity from start to finish, and the source of that integrity is the Eucharist, so we really want to get it right so the graces from it will spread out in a positive ripple effect. If we protect the Mass, we also protect our moral efforts.

Another ripple effect of reverent worship is evangelism. People are attracted to Epiphany, our attendance is very healthy, people are joining the Church and getting involved. Lives are being changed because of the beauty of our worship. Nothing is more persuasive than a personal encounter with Christ. I’m not a salesman, you shouldn’t have to be, either, but if we live an authentic faith and let Jesus be the center of our parish, he naturally draws people to himself.

There are ways that we can do this.

Instead of talking before Mass, take a few minutes in prayer. It is especially important that we keep talking to a minimum both before and after Mass when other people are still in prayer here. We have a beautiful courtyard and I will make coffee anytime if anyone would like to fellowship there. I’ll open up the rectory anytime, too. Our silence is a gift we can give to the people who are still praying, a sign of our love and respect for them and the Eucharist that is housed in the tabernacle.

A number of parishioners kneel to receive communion, so many people on Sunday night we have to bring out a kneeler. I’m super impressed by those of you who kneel on the tile floor. People see that and know that receiving the Eucharist is precious to you.

I see parents teaching their children to participate, showing them how to genuflect when they pass before the tabernacle.

I can feel that you are all very much with me during the Eucharistic prayer, your attention is on Jesus and the atmosphere is prayerful.

These are little gestures that show people we really believe what we say, that this is a sacred space and what happens here is holy. This place is different, and the prayers here are worth attending to, because they are the unveiling of a great mystery.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd come in search of his lost sheep. We are those sheep, and he comes down to us and becomes vulnerable, taking on human flesh and appearing under sacramental signs so that we can meet him and be lifted up to heaven.