Can Heaven be Happy with Some Missing?
By Father Kenneth Doyle –
Question: I am a “cradle Catholic” of 75 years, now homebound. We are taught that if one follows the teachings of the church, is a good person and dies in the state of grace, then that person will go to heaven. But suppose some close loved ones don’t make it there? How can we be happy in heaven without them?
I asked an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and the reply was, “Let’s hope God in his mercy forgives them, too.” But to me this seems to negate the existence of hell. Please help this confused Catholic.
Answer: The question you pose has, I would suppose, challenged every reflective Christian for centuries. Various theories have been suggested. One is that hell exists only as a concept, not in reality, and that God will find a way to forgive everyone and bring them finally to heaven.
But to me that seems to conflict with Matthew 25, where Jesus pictures himself at the final judgment separating the faithful from the unfaithful, casting some into “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Another suggestion is that our memories will fail us in eternity and that those who are lost will simply vanish from our minds. I’m not enthused about that theory either since it seems unlikely that, once our bodies are perfected in heaven, we will simply lose our minds. What I do feel certain about is that heaven will be better than we can ever imagine it.
In Revelation (21:4), we’re told that 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.” I also believe, along with St Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:9, that “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard … what God has prepared for those who love him.”
So I guess that my answer to your question is that I simply don’t know – but that I’m not worried about it. It’s one of those (many) things that I’ll just have to let God figure out.
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