Doing research for a doctrinal class, I was looking at Divine Providence n. 67, which says that Divine Providence not only leads a person to heaven, but leads them toward a specific place in heaven. I personally love this teaching, but I know for some people it seems to take away free will – and it does need to be balanced with the teaching that the Lord would raise everyone into heaven, and even to Himself, if He could (se Arcana Coelestia n. 2335).
But, as I understand it, the Lord knows the choices you’ll make, and so He leads toward a specific spot in heaven. Does that sound too predestination-y? I know there are ministers who would disagree with my take on it, but that’s how I understand it.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that it reminded me to go re-read a passage that I really like. I don’t have the passage number memorized, but it’s easy to find in NewSearch: just search for “beer,” and it’s the passage that comes up from Divine Providence. I just did that, and the passage is Divine Providence n. 254. It says:
Further, it has been provided by the Lord that those who could not be reached by the Gospel, but only by a form of religion, should also have a place in that Divine Man, that is, in heaven, by constituting those parts that are called skins, membranes, cartilages and bones, and that they like others should be in heavenly joy. For it makes no difference whether they are in such joy as that experienced by the angels of the highest heaven or by the angels of the lowest heaven, since everyone who enters heaven comes into the highest joy of his own heart; anything greater he does not assume, for he would be suffocated by it.
For illustration of this compare a peasant and a king. A peasant may be in a state of the highest joy when he goes about in a new suit of rough home-spun, and sits down at a table on which is pork, a piece of beef, cheese, beer and fiery wine; and he would be distressed at heart if he were to be clothed like a king in purple, silk, gold and silver, and if a table were to be set for him with delicacies and costly food of many kinds with noble wine. From this it is clear that there is heavenly happiness for the last as well as for the first, for each in his degree; and consequently for those also who are outside the Christian world, provided they shun evils as sins against God because they are contrary to religion.
(Actually, the text I was looking at said, “A piece of beef cheese,” but it turns out that that’s just a typo. So much for my brilliant explanation that it probably meant “cow cheese”).
One thing that’s not stated is that even if you told the peasant that the king was actually happier than him, he wouldn’t envy the king’s state – he’s perfectly happy where he is, and he can’t even imagine being any happier.
So, to put it in geeky terms, if my happiness level is maxed out when I get to my specific place in heaven, I’m not going to complain that apparently some people are even happier than me. I’m not even sure I’ll believe it…