"Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created." These words, written more than four hundred years ago by the great Spanish saint, Ignatius of Loyola, provide the First Principle and Foundation for his Spiritual Exercises. He called it the Principle and Foundation because it provides the entire basis for the Christian life. God created us to be with Him forever in heaven. This eternal destination is the only true ultimate end we can ever pursue in this life. Everything else, a marriage, a job, material wealth, academic training, priestly ordination, sports, is worthwhile only to the extent that it brings us closer to God. If it doesn't bring us closer to God, it is at best a distraction, at worst, a serious threat to our eternal happiness. Right about now there is a great temptation to get focused on dos and don'ts. "Father, do you really mean that watching four football games a weekend and not spending time with family really might be sinful?" And so on. We get so focused on whether or not something is or is not a sin that we lose sight of heaven. Only when we have our gaze fixed on heaven do we see living out faith everyday as a privilege and not a series of obligations we have to fulfill to be "good Catholics." A great example of someone who lived the Principle and Foundation, is Saint Paul. After meeting Christ, he lived his entire life with an eye turned toward heaven. In today's second reading, we get a good example of this orientation. Paul knew that God was using him to preach the Gospel, that his missionary work was vital to the growth of Christ's infant Church. It was a joy for him to labor in the Lord's vineyard. On the other hand, he "long[ed] to depart this life and be with Christ." He knew that this earthly life is a just a pit stop on the way to our eternal destiny. And he longed more than anything else to see God face to face. In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that he God gave him the favor of having a vision of heaven. We hear him describe the heavenly reward of which he had already received a foretaste in several places in his letters: Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has ready for those who have loved Him. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Now we see as through a mirror dimly, then we shall see face to face and understand as we have been fully understood. Paul looked forward to heaven because he had experienced it. He knew that it would be a joy beyond all telling. In contemporary language, we could describe it something like this: imagine the euphoria of being at a Colts' Super Bowl victory and the sublimity of the martial embrace all wrapped into one extended through all eternity…and that will be only the beginning of the joy we experience in heaven. How do we live this life with our eyes fixed on heaven? The first thing we can do is focus on the blessings that God is giving us everyday. It is very easy for us to become fixated on the handful of things going wrong in our lives when we should be focusing on the dozens and dozens of things going right. So often we take things for granted rather as granted. We forget that everything we receive is a gift from a God who is madly in love with us. The second thing we can do is to give ourselves the privilege of daily prayer. Too frequently we think of prayer as a punishment meted out because of our sinfulness rather than a call into God's loving embrace. This was even true in the case of the great Spanish mystic Saint Teresa of Avila. At the beginning of her religious life, she viewed prayer as penitential act. When her spiritual director told her to pray not as a penance but as joyful way of entering into God's infinite love, prayer became the great joy of her life. And God wants prayer to be the great joys every one of our lives. THE ONLY FULFILLMENT OF OUR DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS WILL COME IN HEAVEN. GOD WANTS US TO START EXPERIENCING THE JOYS OF HEAVEN RIGHT NOW, IN THIS LIFE BY CULTIVATING HABITS OF THANKSGIVING AND DAILY PRAYER. As we to turn to the Lord, let us make our own a venerable and ancient Christian prayer and stir up in ourselves a desire for union with Christ in heaven: Soul of Christ, sanctify me Body of Christ, save me Blood of Christ, inebriate me Water from Christ's side, wash me Passion of Christ, strengthen me O good Jesus, hear me Within Thy wounds hide me Suffer me not to be separated from Thee From the malicious enemy defend me In the hour of my death call me And bid me come unto Thee That I may praise Thee with Thy saints and with Thy angels Forever and ever Amen.