“How can heaven be paradise if some people will be divided from their loved ones? Say I go to heaven and the person I love most goes to Hell. I could never know permanent bliss without the people I love?”
This is a tough question, and it’s not a theoretical one. It’s a voiced fear. How can Heaven be good if not everyone I love makes it? Here are the facts:
1) Hell exists. Jesus tells us as such, and warns of its permanent reality. Heaven exists. Christ prepares places for each soul that seeks Him.
2) Souls can go there of their own free will, owing to a permanent schism brought on by mortal sin if unconfessed/repented of at the time of death. They also can seek God’s mercy.
3) When we die, we face death, judgement, and Heaven (or Purgatory, which is a precursor to Heaven for souls in need of purification), or Hell. [Mortal sin] results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back.
4) God is all merciful and all just, and does not destroy our souls, but firmly respects our freedom even when we choose bad things.
So given these spiritual realities, how do we deal with the idea of a person dying in a state of mortal sin?
First, the person would have to know they are in a state of mortal sin. That would include:
gravity –seriousness of the sin
committed with full knowledge (know it’s wrong, doing it anyway)
and freely chosen (no threats or outside pressure to commit).
There are mitigating factors –all of which God knows in our decision making process, and He sifts through all of it. God sees the terror in the heart of the soul when it finds itself trapped by circumstance, sin, bad decisions, and harmful influences. He sees the angst and worry that cloud judgement. Our Lord understands the soul tormented by illness, both physical and otherwise, and why it seeks relief. Our God is the Good Father, and the Good Shepherd, and the Advocate. The Holy Trinity only looks at each soul with love all of its life, even into eternity. It’s whether we turn from that gaze or allow ourselves to be seen.
He offers us His mercy even up through death. Saint Faustina writes about this in her diary:
“All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person’s sins were as dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest. But poor is the soul who has shut the door on God’s mercy, even at the last hour. It was just such souls who plunged Jesus into deadly sorrow in the Garden of Olives; indeed, it was from His Most Merciful Heart that divine mercy flowed out”
One wonders how Christ can rejoice when even one soul refuses Him. He shows us His sorrow and the depth of His mercy with His words on the Cross. “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
What does it mean for us? It means today, if we love someone here, we should be praying for them. Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet or the Rosary or some devotion that they might receive graces for that final perseverance. It means that tomorrow, and the next and next and on through the end, we should be doing this; praying without ceasing.
With respect to final judgement; the soul that rejects love itself, will also reject us because the soul that cannot bear God’s love, will also not be able to bear our love perfected (which all love in Heaven is).
The second part of the question is harder still. Will we not sorrow like our Lord at that reality in Heaven? It is a great mystery to fathom. The knowledge that they are not destroyed and the full knowledge that we will share in Heaven, which we cannot comprehend here I must trust would bridge that gap, but I also am going to trust that God knows who we love and looks deeply into each soul for all echoes of His love, and weighs them justly. I am going to trust that purgatory is always bursting with souls, and pray that as many souls as possible, will to let Love gaze upon them and trust Love’s judgement.
All the souls we love that aren’t in the pews, are our obligation now and into eternity –should we outlive them or not. They are ours to pray for, to hope for, to petition for, because like Christ, we want everyone at the feast. We do not know who is in Hell. We do know some of who are in Heaven. That is a great comfort, because it gives us names of people to ask intercession from, so that the names of those we love may one day be petitioned.
It’s not a full answer, because one cannot know a reality one has not fully experienced. What we can know, is all masses are a union of Heaven and Earth, and all adoration is sitting in the presence of Heaven, and thus we can in this life, petition Our Lord often, for the hope that this question becomes one of no heart ache, and of no meaning at the end of all time.
May all the seats be filled.
Hoping other wiser heads than mine will take up the big question and try to answer it more and maybe, (Holy Spirit willing), cumulatively, we’ll manage to grapple at something of an answer beyond what I’ve written here.