I have a question that has puzzled me for a very long time. As a CCD teacher I have to attend regular certification classes. At one of these certification classes during the Gulf War, a lady asked the question: who goes to heaven? Her daughter was worried about the people who would be killed during the conflict. The nun answered that, "everyone goes to heaven". She was questioned about the answer, and asked what then did Jesus mean when He said, "no one goes to the Father except through Me". She said that was for another class.
Another class a couple of years later I asked the same question to the person teaching. He answered "everyone who is churched goes to heaven". This time I questioned the answer, and asked what did he mean by churched. He answered back to me what he had said before and I didn't ask again, because I could tell I was agitating him. Was what we were told the belief of the Catholic Church? If it is, then I do not think I understand the reason of the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. I would appreciate you helping me understand, since I start teaching CCD, September 10, and I would like to start the new year without this nagging question in the back of my mind. Thank you so much.
God Bless you,
Your instincts are correct. To declare, "everyone goes to heaven," effectively empties Jesus' words of their meaning - and leads one to the logical conclusion that the Church with her sacraments is an unnecessary burden. But notice that it also robs life of any sense of drama. We may all desire a happy outcome for a novel or play, but would we be interested in one which did not convince us that the hero could fail?
In Orthodoxy G.K. Chesterton has a marvellous section on how the novel emerges from a Christian world view - where it really is possible to lose all.* This is so different from Eastern & other religions which assume an endless series of second chances. Our faith does speak of a second chance - in Christ, while still in these bodies - but also a point of no return. I tried to illustrate that teaching of Jesus in a homily on hell. This is a hard teaching, but a necessary one. And I would hate to be responsible for lulling someone into a sense of false security. Of course, if we cling to Jesus - even tho we sometimes fall - we will have true security.
I hope this helps. Please let me know how things go.
Fr. Phil Bloom
*"To the Buddhist or the eastern fatalist existence is a science or a plan, which must end up in a certain way. But to a Christian existence is a story, which may end up in any way. In a thrilling novel (that purely Christian product) the hero is not eaten by cannibals; but it is essential to the existence of the thrill that he might be eaten by cannibals. The hero must (so to speak) be an eatable hero. So Christian morals have always said to the man, not that he would lose his soul, but that he must take care that he didn't. In Christian morals, in short, it is wicked to call a man "damned": but it is strictly religious and philosophic to call him damnable.
"All Christianity concentrates on the man at the cross-roads. The vast and shallow philosophies, the huge syntheses of humbug, all talk about ages and evolution and ultimate developments. The true philosophy is concerned with the instant. Will a man take this road or that? -- that is the only thing to think about, if you enjoy thinking. The aeons are easy enough to think about, any one can think about them. The instant is really awful: and it is because our religion has intensely felt the instant, that it has in literature dealt much with battle and in theology dealt much with hell. " See Orthodoxy (Chapter 8)