Homily given by Father David Jameson, Parochial Vicar at St. Patrick Catholic Parish & School (Ada) on Nov. 1, 2023
"One of my family’s favorite pastimes used to be long drives on lazy Sunday afternoons — just getting in the car and driving out into the countryside, no particular destination in mind, and no agenda apart from taking in northwest Louisiana’s natural beauty.
My grandmother treasured these long rides. We could not be in the car more than a minute or two without passing some landmark that inevitably stirred up some memory and prompted her to tell a story about “that time when.” For my grandmother, these drives were exercises in nostalgia.
But for a four-year-old, this was torture. Nothing was more boring than sitting in a hot car forever, going nowhere, looking at boring things, and listening to boring stories we had all heard about a bajillion times.
To my four-year-old mind, this was a wholly unremarkable experience. I did everything I could to entertain myself, usually choosing deliberately noisy activities designed to simultaneously communicate my boredom and annoy everyone else around me – activities that would have tested the patience of even the greatest of saints.
On one such drive, after riding for what seemed like an eternity, I could not take it anymore. I had had it! Standing up and leaning forward over the front seat, interrupting my grandmother’s story, I shouted at the top of my lungs “Where are we going?!”
My grandmother, ever so briefly, paused her story just long enough to respond. “We’re going to heaven,” she said, casually, matter-of-factly.
This broke my poor, little brain.
“What? Now?! We’re going there now?” I blurted out, yelling even louder than before.
“Yes, David! Now!” My evidently annoyed grandmother snorted at me as she abruptly turned in her passenger seat to face me.
Knowing how dangerous it was that I had interrupted my grandmother’s story not once, but twice now, my mom yanked me down and buckled me into the backseat again, where I sat in a kind of catatonic state, stunned, astounded by this revelation: we were going to heaven, and we were going there now.
I could not wrap my mind around it. Sitting in silence for at least thirty minutes, questions filled my head, until finally, it happened. Turning off a dirt road, we pulled into an empty gravel parking lot, and the car stopped.
Grandmother, Granddaddy, Mom, and my Uncle John all opened their doors and got out.
From the backseat, I looked out where they stood. We were alone. There was nothing but the gravel parking lot, a dirt road, some trees, and a pasture.
Not seeing anything else or anyone else—my dad or my brothers—I started crying.
“David, what’s wrong? Come on! Get out of the car” my mom said as she leaned in to unbuckle my seat belt.
“I’m not getting out,” I wailed. “Where’s Dad? Where’s John and Paul? We have to go back and get them!”
“They couldn’t come. It’s just us,” Mom said.
“Just us? But where’s God? Doesn’t He live here?”
After a few seconds of stunned silence, Mom began laughing uncontrollably along with everyone else.
Through tears of laughter, my grandmother finally explained: “Oh, David, this isn’t Heaven! This is Heflin. Heflin, Louisiana. We’re here to buy some figs. Now get on out of the car!”
If only I could live every moment of my life as I did during the last half-hour of that car ride.
Solely focused on the destination that lie ahead—fixed on heaven, consumed with thoughts about God and eternal life with Him, filled with a desire to bring everyone I know along with me.
If only I lived every day like that.
But if I am honest with myself, I know I usually spend most days as I did during the first part of that car ride: Impatient, inconvenienced, sulking, playing the victim; selfishly whining and complaining; letting everyone around me know how unhappy I am; how annoyed and bothered I am; how uncomfortable things are, how difficult life is. Doing whatever I can to entertain myself, to distract myself, to make myself more comfortable, all in an effort to avoid even the slightest amount of dissatisfaction, difficulty, pain, or suffering.
Today, Jesus’ Beatitudes are put before us, showing us that the way to live life is not like the first part of that car ride, but like the second.
According to Christ, the “blessed” life—the truly happy life—is not the comfortable life. It is not measured according to the world’s standards. It is counter-cultural, lived with the hope of eternal union with God in view.
The saints, whom we celebrate today, knew this. They lived the Beatitudes, finding their sanctity by focusing on the hope of eternal life in Christ while accepting, enduring, and heroically—even sacrificially—suffering the circumstances of their individual lives, whatever those circumstances might have been.
The same is true for us. Our lives are blessed according to the hope with which we live—the hope with which we respond to life’s circumstances, whatever those circumstances may be.
Today we entrust ourselves to the intercession of the saints. Like those blessed ones, may we discover that real happiness and security comes only from God, from the hope of eternal life in Christ, and not from a comfortable, culturally endorsed life.
May we always live with this example of the saints before us—with Heaven as our hope and our destination."
All you Holy Saints of God, pray for us!