Heaven Without My Children?
By Father Kenneth Doyle
Question: Is the happiness of heaven dependent on human factors? Specifically, when I die and – hopefully – get to heaven, how could I be eternally happy if my children were not to make it with me? The way things are right now, that is a distinct possibility. How could I ever be at peace knowing that they are being punished forever?
Answer: In the kingdom of heaven, according to the promise of the Book of Revelation (21:4), God “will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”
How exactly that is going to happen is hidden from us while we are on this side of heaven. To be honest, I have no direct answer to your question, which is a perennial one, except to say that I choose to put my trust in the revealed word of God.
Some theologians have explained it this way: In heaven, we will better understand how the Lord is just, that those who reject him by the way they live have chosen their fate. God will not override that choice – and we will be comforted by this fuller knowledge.
Truthfully, that explanation doesn’t help me much, but this one does: I believe that the mercy of God is expansive and that many more people are in heaven than we imagine. Only the Lord knows the true state of our souls, and I am encouraged by Matthew’s Gospel, which says in Chapter 25 that we will ultimately be judged by how we responded to people who needed our help.
I love the story of Monica, who prayed – over many years, with many tears – for her son Augustine when he was living far from the Christian life, and how St Ambrose told her that it was impossible that a “child of such tears” would perish.
So, take heart, continue to give witness to the faith we hold dear. Entrust your children to the care of God (who loves them even more than you do) and keep praying for them, as I will, too.
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