If you were told, for instance, that a musician, who never served God, but who, nevertheless, received the grace of a death-bed repentance, shall, on account of his cultivated musical ear, enjoy more pleasure from heavenly music than the Blessed Virgin, the apostles, martyrs, and holy virgins, your whole soul would undoubtedly revolt at such a doctrine. You would maintain that if heaven is the reward of supernatural virtue, its whole happiness, its every joy, and its every delight, whether from God himself or from creatures, should be enjoyed in a higher degree by those who have loved and served Him in a more perfect manner, and sacrificed themselves more completely for Him.
You would certainly be right in maintaining all this, for it is certainly so. The highest in heaven will not only possess a greater elevation of mind -- which is necessary to enjoy greater pleasure even from creatures -- but their senses also will be more refined and acute, and will, therefore, enable them to enjoy more refined pleasures from the objects of sense. It will be as already explained for the Beatific Vision. All shall see, hear, and otherwise enjoy the creatures prepared by the Almighty to rejoice the senses of His children; but all shall not, on that account, enjoy the same amount of pleasure. Each one shall receive his own pleasure, according to the supernatural perfection of his senses which he has deserved by the holiness of his life.
Let us endeavor to understand this, by supposing a grand concert given in a church, where all classes of society are represented. All hear the music, both vocal and instrumental, and all, no doubt, receive pleasure. But do they all receive the same amount of pleasure? They certainly do not. We may, for the sake of illustration, divide that vast assembly into three general classes. The first consists of those who have little or no musical ear, and, therefore, the concert affords them only an inferior pleasure. The next class is composed of those who have a good natural ear for music, but who never have developed and cultivated it by study. These evidently receive a far greater pleasure than the former. But the third class is composed of those who not only possess a natural talent for music, but who have, moreover, developed it by patient and assiduous study. These last receive unbounded pleasure. They follow with ease each instrument and voice into the most intricate harmony; they receive the most exquisite pleasure precisely in those parts where the uneducated perceive little or no beauty, because the music is too scientific for them.
Here you have the same object of pleasure for all. Every one present hears the whole concert as if he were there alone; and yet, what a difference in the pleasure enjoyed by each one! We have divided these persons into three classes, but, in reality, each one forms a class by himself; for there are not two of those present, whether among the educated or the ignorant, who receive precisely the same amount of pleasure. Each one appropriates and enjoys his own individual pleasure, according to the peculiar development of his faculties.
So it is in heaven. All the blessed hear the magnificent harmony, but all do not, on that account, enjoy the same degree of pleasure. Each one enjoys in proportion to his individual development, which is given him as a portion of his reward. And, as the reward is given in proportion to the holiness of their lives, it follows that the holiest enjoy more pleasure than others from heavenly music. Evidently, this holds true of the other senses, which also are elevated and refined according to each one's holiness of life. Hence, however talented and learned a man may now be in music, astronomy, philosophy, poetry, or any other natural science, and how keen and perfect soever may be his senses, he will not enjoy more pleasure, in virtue of these more perfect natural gifts, unless they have been consecrated to the service of God.
This is a truth which you must never forget. For it is to be feared that there is a half-formed notion in the minds of respectable and highly educated persons, that their superior talents and education will enable them to enjoy more of heaven's happiness than those who either have no great talents or are too poor to have them developed by study. There can be no greater illusion. If it were so, the poor, who, have already suffered so much from their humble position, would seemingly have reason to complain on seeing the educated classes again above them in heaven; and that, too, merely on account of their higher education, and other natural advantages. Remember that God can and will elevate each one in the power of enjoyment, according to the holiness of his life, and not according to the natural advantages he enjoys in this world.
But although it is perfectly true that natural talents, as such, are not rewarded, and, therefore, do not elevate their possessors to a higher glory or power of enjoyment, the case is quite different if these talents have been developed under the influence of grace, and consecrated to God by supernatural motives. In such a supposition, they will most certainly be rewarded with a higher degree of glory, and an increased power of enjoyment. Hence, philosophers, theologians, and other learned men, who study for the glory of God; poets, who sing the praises of God and of his saints; musicians, who devote their talents to the composition of sacred music; the men and the women who consecrate their talents and lives to the education of youth -- all these shall undoubtedly have their talents rewarded with an increased power of enjoyment, because they have supernaturalized them by a pure intention, and exercised them for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. The rich man will certainly not be higher in heaven on account of his wealth; but he may increase his glory by making a proper use thereof. He may relieve the necessities of the fatherless and the widow; he may build up houses for the education of the poor; he may increase the beauty and the majesty of God's temples, and thus change his wealth into a means of reaching a very high degree of glory in heaven. So with you, if you be wealthy, talented, and highly educated, although you will not be higher in heaven on account of these natural advantages, you may vastly increase your glory by charity to the poor, by teaching the ignorant, by writing or translating good books, by purchasing and circulating such pious books among the poor, and by otherwise using your social position for the advancement of religion, and glorifying God with the natural advantages He has so liberally bestowed upon you.
But you may, perhaps, ask: Will not these different degrees of glory cause envy and, therefore, unhappiness in the lowest among the blessed? Will not kings and queens, and other great ones of this world, be unhappy if they see the poor above them? when they see those, to whom they imagined they could not even speak without lowering their dignity, shining far above them in splendor? I answer, that if kings, queens, and other great ones of this world have the unspeakable good fortune of being admitted into heaven, they certainly will not be envious of the greater glory they shall behold in those upon whom they formerly looked down.
There is no envy in heaven. If we once admit the possibility of such a thing as envy, then farewell to the happiness of heaven. For in such a supposition no one could be happy. The lowest would envy the happiness of those who are a little higher, and these would envy the happiness of the highest, and these, again, would envy the happiness of the Blessed Virgin; and she, too, would be unhappy, because she does not possess the glory of the Hypostatic Union, which is the privilege of Jesus Christ alone. The absurdity of all this is a sufficient answer to the question. Each one in heaven is satisfied with his own lot, because it suits himself and no one else. As St. Augustine says: When a tall man and a little boy are both dressed in a suit of the same precious cloth, each is suited and fitted to his satisfaction. The little boy is neither envious nor unhappy because the tall man has more cloth than he; and he certainly would not exchange with him. So also in heaven. Every one is there satisfied with his own degree of glory, because it suits himself, and gratifies all the rational cravings of his nature. Not only are the lowest without envy, and perfectly satisfied with their degree of glory, but they even rejoice at the higher glory of others. For they see that those who enjoy the highest glory of heaven have deserved it by the heroic virtues they practised while on earth.
Christian soul, I suppose that now you understand something of the degrees of enjoyment in heaven, and that you are filled with noble ambition to reach a high degree of union with God. You no doubt desire to see your whole nature so elevated as to have the most perfect enjoyment of God himself, and of the creatures in store to rejoice the glorified senses of the just. Set to work in good earnest to live a holy life; for it is by so doing that we deserve the highest powers of enjoyment. A few days of labor and struggle, a few days of self-denial, a few days of suffering, and then, the undisturbed possession and enjoyment Of God himself, and of His beautiful and pure creatures, forever! This is what is in store for them that practise virtue and persevere unto the end.