Saturday, 18 May 2013

Angry Vengeful God?

Imagine you've died and gone to Heaven.

Joy of joys !!! At last, you've made it. God has seen it fit for you to deserve Heaven. An eternity with Him. You are so glad, more than you've ever been your entire life.

You look around and meet old friends and relatives who have made it here too. You greet them with a tear in your eye - a tear of joy as well as a little sadness when you remember how you missed them and cried when they were gone!

You renew old acquaintances as well as make new ones as you meet the Saints you've read so much about but had never met.

Then you realise someone is missing. 

A relative, or friend, whom you'd expected to see here is missing. You ask St Peter and he confirms your suspicion. That person is not here.

Is he in transit? In the Purification Center we call Purgatory, perhaps?

No ... he is ... in the other place.

Your joy turns to sadness, confusion, despair even. How can it be? You so expected to be with that person in Heaven for eternity.

What do you do?

Seek an explanation from God? Perhaps there's been a mistake! Ask Him to re-consider. Plead with Him even? Beg that this person is brought up to Heaven?

Has that person's absence tarnished your joy of being in Heaven? Changed your view of God's justice and mercy?

How can you possibly be here in Heaven for ever, knowing full well that a dear loved one is in the other place and will never join you?


On the Cross Jesus forgave those who dared to inflict so much suffering and death to the Son of God. What more heinous sin could your relative or friend have committed to deserve an eternity in hell?

Your human sense of justice; and your understanding and perspective of forgiveness and mercy would like things to be different and, no matter what that person has done in life, you wish him here with you in Heaven.

But God does not work like that. His perspective is not a human perspective. He decided otherwise.

In Luke 16:19-31 we read that the rich man in "the other place" pleaded that his brothers may not join him there. But his pleadings were met with the response that each person makes his or her own decisions in life, and by their actions they choose whether to go to Heaven or not.

No one goes to hell by mistake. We choose to go there. And many, by their actions, are sleep-walking their way to hell.

The time for action and prayers is now.

And yet ... what if we're one day in Heaven and our loved one is not there? What then?

18 comments:

  1. This is such a difficult one, Victor. Maybe, we could think of it like this: imagine you were throwing a really special Golden Wedding Anniversary party for your beloved parents and you wanted to invite your favourite cousin. But, your cousin hates not only your dear parents but, also, every other guest who's been invited. What do you do? You want him there but, if he comes, he's going to destroy the happy and peaceful atmosphere by insulting the important guests and spreading hate where only love existed before.

    Would you resign yourself to the fact that your misguided cousin had chosen a different path that didn't include you, and then focus your love and gratitude on the sweet guests of honour? Or would you throw a tantrum, all the while knowing that, even if your cousin was there, he would be out of place and miserable.

    This isn't a very good analogy - I think it's a hard one for us to understand, don't you think?

    This was an interesting post, Victor!

    God bless:-)

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    1. Vicky, I found this post very difficult to write. I understand your good analogy if someone turns his back on God and continues to do so. It is understandable that he will not be in Heaven.

      My concerns are for someone who perhaps has stolen, or committed adultery (both sins in the 10 Commandments). Is it right that this person spends eternity in hell?

      Are those sins really worse than killing the Son of God? Jesus forgave His killers. Can God really not forgive an adulterer or thief?

      In my naive human state, I can forgive those sins. Does God not do so and condemn such sinners to hell?

      I'm sure we can think of many other sins in the Commandments which, according to the Church, send the sinner to hell. And I would sure miss my relatives or friends who are not in Heaven because of such sins. Say, for example, a good person misses Mass on Sunday and dies on that day. Would you or I send him to hell for that?

      God bless.

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    2. Victor, it seems that the Church would consider missing Sunday Mass to be a grave sin, rather than a mortal sin. It would have to be committed with full knowledge and consent to be considered a mortal sin. Normally, mortal sins are the result of a habit of venial and grave sins, rather than an isolated incident. Frequent confession and humble obedience should provide us with the graces necessary to avoid mortal sin. If we commit a grave sin, our consciences usually trouble us enough to seek reconciliation with God.

      I think that the Church cautions against grave sins to protect our souls against the progressive sickness that leads to an inability to distinguish right from wrong. When that happens, we no longer see the need for forgiveness and begin to hate any form of higher authority. In our arrogance, we turn to other gods and our soul has died to God. Then, the grave sin has become a mortal sin and, unless we are unable to go to confession, we need absolution from a priest to provide our souls with the forgiving graces that are necessary for healing.

      There's an interesting article about this here, Victor: https://sites.google.com/a/stpaulcatholic.net/parish/sacraments/eucharist-liturgy-of-he-eucharist/questions-about-the-liturgy-of-the-eucharist-holy-mass/is-it-a-mortal-sin-to-miss-mass-on-sunday

      It explains it much better. I think the Church may seem harsh but the reality is that it is often too difficult for us to know when a grave sin is actually a mortal sin so the Church guides us along the narrow, but safer, path.

      God bless, Victor:-)

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    3. Thank you Vicky for a brilliant and very helpful response; also for the link which I shall read more fully.

      I'm grateful that you took the time to answer in such detail. You're right that the intent behind our sin is just as important as the sin.

      God bless you always.

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  2. Great post. On this earth we always have access to God's mercy. We who fall so often and continue to convert understand mercy well. As you pointed out, though, we don't understand how God works His justice. But when we die, we'll understand it perfectly. We won't mourn those who aren't in heaven because there is only perfect peace up there and we will be in complete agreement with God on everything.

    It is good you wrote this because you're reminding us that it's in this life that we rightly mourn our sins and those of others and "pray for the conversion of poor sinners" as Our Lady of Fatima pleaded. Loved your cartoon. Are you the artist?

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    1. It's true Barb, we don't understand how God works His justice. I suppose our human understanding would like to forgive all sins, eventually, after a stay in Purgatory for instance.

      As I mentioned in my reply to Vicky above. It seems so unfair that an adulterer, a thief, or someone who's missed Mass should languish in hell for ever.

      I did not draw the cartoons. I cut and paste the characters and backgrounds and make the speech bubbles and final cartoon.

      More cartoons on the tab at top right of this Blog.

      God bless.

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  3. All I know is that I have been taught that there is only joy in heaven. We will not be sad or in pain. I don't know how that answers your question though. What if a loved one does not go to heaven? Maybe we all get there eventually. I believe God forgives us all but we choose heaven or hell ourselves.
    All a mystery.

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    1. Perhaps you're right Colleen. I have heard it said that God does forgive us eventually - but only if we do want to be forgiven. C.S. Lewis said that the gates of hell are locked from the inside. So maybe it is us who decide to go there and stay there.

      God bless.

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  4. Oh, this is something I've wondered about many times. I hate the thought of anyone going to hell.
    The saddest thing is that no one HAS to go to hell, we were created for heaven.

    Who knows what happens when a person is dying? I think God floods people with grace at that time- He wants us to be with Him.

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    1. I pray you're right Mary and that people do get graces at the moment of death. I too hate to think that a loved one is in hell.

      God bless you.

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  5. we only an inkling of the depth of God's mercy
    heck mankind has not been wiped off the face of the earth- that should give us some idea

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    1. Good point well made, Melanie.

      God bless.

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  6. Wow Victor. What a powerful post. You always find a way to write about such difficult topics in a thought provoking way.

    I'll add to your questioning ... In heaven, there is no sadness right? So what will happen if/when we get there and see someone missing? Will we not feel any sadness because we are in Heaven?

    God Bless you.

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    1. Michael you understand me very well. That's exactly my point.

      How can I not feel sadness in Heaven when I know a relative/friend is missing and will never join me there? As a human, I can forgive this relative/friend. Why can't God?

      May God bless you always.

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    2. Victor, you know that God does want to forgive everyone, right? Some people don't want to accept His love and forgiveness. It's not possible for us to be more merciful than God. He is all merciful - even if we can't understand His ways.

      Victor, on earth, the souls of all of us are a mix of sinfulness and goodness, which comes from God. Those who reject God also reject this goodness if they don't repent before the moment of death. They choose the devil for their father and become as him. It is sad but God won't force us to love Him - the invitation to forgiveness and to Heaven is open to us all but the harsh reality is that some people choose a way that doesn't include God. If we saw them after death, I expect we would only see the Godless part of their souls, as the love within them would have died through their own choosing.

      We also need to detach ourselves from the type of human love that supplants the place of God in our hearts. Alone, human love is self-loving and opposed to God's will. Supernatural love is selfless and in complete conformity with God's will. It may (wrongly) seem less compassionate and caring but it is a purer, higher form of love which is life-giving, being based on goodness and eternal truth rather than transitory human feelings. Still, I believe that God cares about our natural feelings and suffers with us. That is why He gives us so many opportunities to repent and also provides an abundance of graces through the prayers and sacrifices we offer for others.

      So, instead of asking why God can't forgive, perhaps we should ask whether we have enough faith to believe that God will listen to our prayers and accept our fervent sacrifices for those we love. Miracles happen when we trust.

      This is my understanding, Victor. I'm not sure if it's helpful, at all.

      God bless:-)

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    3. Thank you so much Vicky for taking the time to respond with such consideration and in such detail. I much appreciate it and have read your response more than once to understand what you are saying.

      Let me tell you my concerns.

      Of course, as you say, God is more merciful than us and wants to forgive us all. And true, some people don't want forgiveness and therefore condemn themselves to hell.

      Let me outline some of the people I care for:

      Let's imagine the man who is irreconcilably broken away from his parents, or his wife and no longer contacts them. Or the man who has divorced and is co-habiting (not married) with a new partner to whom he is faithful and devoted. Or the man who is gay. Or perhaps the man whose intellect somehow stops him from believing in God.

      All these people can, and some I know ARE, very kind, nice, likeable (add any positive adjective you like here) people. There circumstances are such that they do not communicate with parents, or co-habit or ... etc ... etc ... as above.

      Are they really destined to hell for eternity?

      I can understand their situations and somehow I forgive their actions. They have not broken any criminal law and have done no evil to others. In my naivity I would not condemn them to hell. Am I wrong?

      This is a difficult matter Vicky which has long taxed me. Some of the people I mention above, I know, have not rejected God. But their situation is such that, according to our Church, puts them outwith God's love.

      I still love them. Does God love them too?

      May God bless you Vicky, and thanx once again for a very helpful response to a very difficult problem.

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    4. Victor, if these people show mercy to others, God will be merciful to them - if they choose to appeal to His mercy. God has the final judgment, whether we place our trust inside or outside of the Church.

      If people reject the Church's teachings, why would they feel that the Church has the authority to put them outside of God's love?

      It would be comforting to know that all our loved ones will be saved but we can only trust that they will - even when they appear to be devout and faithful Catholics.

      I know this is an inadequate response but it's such a big issue, Victor. For those who trust in the Church, the answers are there for the finding. For those who don't, they need to find another spiritual philosophy from which to draw their hope.

      God bless you, Victor:-)

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    5. Thank you Vicky for your very wise answer. I draw comfort from what you say at the begining that if these people are themselves merciful, then God's mercy will be shown them when they seek it.

      I know some of these people in real life. For example an individual co-habiting with his partner for years and being very loyal, faithful and devoted. He is a very good person and a Christian in all other respects, attending church etc ... However, for various reasons they are not married. I'd hate it if he was denied Heaven for this.

      I thank God that it is He who has the final decision and not us.

      God bless you, and thanx again for your valuable contributions. I regret other readers did not engage further on this one. But, as you say, it is a big issue and a difficult subject. I sometimes write such posts, amongst my more humourous ones, to make people think deeper about their Faith.

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