As I was praying the Our Father recently, an odd question popped into my head: Why do we state where God is? It’s not like there are multiple gods out there which we need to differentiate. It’s not like He changes locations with the seasons that we would need to keep His whereabouts in mind. And how is it that we humans can definitively know where God is?
Heaven is not about a physical place or space, as we define location. Rather it calls to mind that God is not a being limited to our world. He is Creator of all, so His signature is on everything we see around us. That helps us to bring Him to mind and ponder what He is like. After all, what better way to get to know someone than to look at what He has created? But creation does not fully reveal who God is, rather provides us examples of what God is like. Creation can lead us to a relationship with God, but not to God Himself.
If God is not a being limited to this world, then He is beyond it. When humans first roamed the earth, they had no idea what was above the clouds, as the clouds, sun, moon and stars were beyond their reach. It makes sense that the first definition for heaven in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “the expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome.” However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. … [Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.“ (CCC: 2795-6) Does that mean the Our Father is not reminding us that God is elsewhere, but that we are called to live with the hope and anticipation of getting there?
Jesus Christ came down from heaven by being born of a woman and ascended back into heaven after He completed His mission (His passion, death and resurrection). He has bridged the gap between the two realms. He has taught us to keep heaven in mind when praying by using it not just once, but a second time so that we ask for God’s will to be ‘done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Heaven is not a state of mind, but a state of which to be mindful.