It was a heated discussion. Sarah, our boys and I were driving to an uneventful afternoon at the shopping mall. Pietro and Matteo were making plans and getting excited for the holidays. “What are you guys most excited for?” I asked them. The answer?
“Fly to the moon!” shouted Matteo.
“Yeah!” added Pietro.
I looked at Sarah. I hate to discourage their fantasies (we have told them Santa Claus does not exist already and sharks won’t eat them at night, among other childhood myths). I’ve even developed a noncommittal response to their unrealistic requests: “one day.” And they usually are happy to hear that the fantasy of the moment will come true “one day.”
But this time honesty was imperative.
“We will never be able to fly to the moon, guys,” I said.
“But rockets exist!” defended Pietro.
“They do but not for us.”
“They don’t fly to the moon anymore.”
“Rockets are the fastest of all. Even more than planes,” declared Matteo, trying to console himself.
I attempted to inject some adult reason into the conversation. “There’s nothing to do on the moon anyway. What will you do? Just stand there?”
“We could board a rocket and go around the moon, Dad,” explained Matteo. “Can’t we?”
“Well…” I was about to add my “maybe” or “one day” or “who knows” when Pietro asked a genuinely puzzling question.
“Will we be able to fly to the moon in Heaven?”
That’s a good question. My mind went immediately to Revelation 21:23: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” – even if this passage does not rule out the existence of moons in the new creation. On the other hand, my heart felt like telling them, “Who knows? We may fly to the moon and to so much more!”
I didn’t give them a clear answer; I don’t have one. But I do think our images of Heaven are far too unambitious. We imagine a few clouds, rays, and harps – a static, abstract vision influenced more by Plato than by the Bible – and think nothing could be more heavenly. But the Christian vision is much more expansive than that. It gives us a few hints, but I wonder if God’s boundless creativity in this present universe won’t be far surpassed in the new one.
My boys’ holiday enthusiasm reminded me of one of the introductory paragraphs of C. S. Lewis’s stirring meditation on Heaven.
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
So what about now inconceivable space explorations? The creation of new arts? Building magnificent civilizations? Ferrari races on the rings of Saturn?
Who knows. Maybe one day.