There are so many wonderful things in this world that we can get distracted from its purpose. We forget why we’re here.
Just as we once grew and developed in our mothers’ wombs before entering the world, so is this world a place of preparation. In the womb, we develop physically; in the world, we develop spiritually. This is the place to prepare for the next and final life—real life.
The difference between our time in the womb and our time in the world is choice. In the womb, we didn’t choose to develop; our cells just followed the DNA program with no input from us. We couldn’t be too busy to grow a foot; we couldn’t decide not to have a nose.
But in this next stage, we do have a choice; we don’t have to follow the program. Some people are too busy to grow in virtue; some decide not to have a conscience, nor to nourish their souls.
It’s hard to remember that this life, enchanting as it is, doesn’t exist for merely itself but is more about getting ready for the next. It’s hard to believe in a Father we can’t see. But really, refusing to believe in Him is as ironic as a fetus refusing to believe in his mother. The fetus can’t see his mother, though surrounded by her and though he receives everything he needs from her. We are just as dependent on our heavenly Father; and though invisible, He is even closer to us.
Our time in the “world-womb” is equally as critical as our time in the maternal womb. A baby can get by without lungs in the womb, but he can’t stay there forever. We can get by in the world without God’s grace, but we can’t stay here forever either. Passing into eternity without divine grace is as dire as the birth of a baby who'd refused to grow lungs.
Being sinners, most of us are not working on our development the way we ought. Fortunately, God has a terrific neo-natal unit. The less prepared we are, the more time we’ll need to spend in the NICU; but no matter how purgatorial it may be, we’ll be thankful for it. And the Divine Physician can even save an embryo that repudiated all development—provided he or she gives consent: calling upon His mercy even in the birth canal to eternal life.
While God can save us even at the last moment, in the real Purgatory, we will not be able to develop any further. Death is like a kiln that sets us for eternity. Even the Potter cannot mold us after we’ve passed through the kiln. And if we, the clay, have always hardened ourselves against the Potter, rejecting His moisturizing grace, then the kiln will make us crumble.
The joy of heaven is God’s love. Everyone there will be filled with His love, though how much each of us can hold depends on how we responded to the Potter. Those who have submitted to His (admittedly painful) kneading, stretching, and molding work themselves transformed from lumps of clay to beautiful, elegant vessels, of great depth. The more we have let Him stretch and hollow us—the more emptied of self we are—the more love we can contain.
To receive His love, we will need to have made at least a dent in our self-absorption. He can fill even a thumbprint. But why be satisfied with that? Better to make full use of this special—and limited—period in our existence.
As babes we had nothing to do with our development. What a gift (yet a terror too) that we have everything to do with what shape we’ll be in, when we finally meet our Father face to face.