There are many mysteries surrounding the reality of heaven. Scripture tells us eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and it has not entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him. But one of the more common questions regarding heaven is who will be there.
There are many people who do not practice their Christian faith who believe they will go to heaven because they are a good person. They live lives of love, kindness, and generosity and don’t believe religion is necessary for their salvation. And we know many of these people who, though they don’t practice their faith, exhibit such kindness, love, and generosity that it is hard to imagine they will not be welcomed into heaven.
Recently on Go Ask Your Father™, a listener called in asking if someone who dies without a relationship with God can go to heaven, and what we on earth can do for those souls. Msgr. Stuart Swetland responded:
“There are two things that God reserves for Himself. He reserves the ultimate judgement and revenge. Those are two things that God reserves for Himself. That’s why no Christian can ever take up judgement or vengeance – those are God’s and God’s alone.
And in these areas, God is a very jealous God. He holds close to Himself the right to judge and any vengeance. It’s one of the very explicit teachings of both the Old and the New Testament.
So, because ultimate judgement relies with God, what you and I have to do is everything we can this side of heaven to cooperate with God’s efforts to save everyone, including ourselves. And so we say yes to His offer of faith, we say yes to His offer of fellowship, we live our life that way.
Now for those who have not, for whatever reason, said yes to that offer, we do know that saving grace is being offered to them. To paraphrase St. Augustine, while God created us without us, He won’t save us without us. Meaning we have to cooperate. So at some stage, they have to cooperate with the grace God is giving them, but we do not know what is going on in their interior life.
We know, as the Second Vatican Council says, that by Jesus’ Incarnation, He, the Son of God, has in a certain way united Himself with each person. And we know that they are receiving saving grace if they will cooperate with it. But we don’t know how that works, it is a way known to God alone.
So we continue to pray for this lost soul, we continue to do everything that we can for them, and we have to hope that at the last moment, or in the inner sanctum of their conscience, they turn to God and ask for God’s help and relationship at some stage in their life, and that they die in friendship with God. That’s what we hope. We don’t know, but we hope that.
In Gaudium et Spes it says,
Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God alone, in the paschal mystery.
So we do what we can, but we know that God is trying to call all to Himself. Now, I know how hard it is to live in friendship with God, because of my weakness, even with all the graces I have in the Church – the teachings, Scripture, the sacraments, the communion of saints praying for me.
With all of those things, we still know how difficult it is. So that’s why we want all people to have all those sources, because outside of that it is even more difficult. And that’s why we want to help those who have fallen away to come back, to receive all the graces that they can, to live their vocation, and discover their destiny of union with God in heaven.”
Listen to the full conversation below:
Go Ask Your Father airs weekdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/10:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.