As a parent, it is good and natural to be concerned for your child’s welfare. We hope that they find success and happiness in school, work, and their relationships. But there is perhaps no greater concern for a parent than their child’s eternal welfare. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in paragraph 1033:
Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and blessed is called “hell.”
Many parents read that and think of their children who have fallen away from the faith. We warn our children that if they do not come back to the Church they will go to Hell, but they don’t seem to care.
Recently, a listener called in to The Joe Sikorra Show to ask for advice about this. Her son is agnostic, but seems resigned to the fact that if there is, in fact, a God then he will end up in Hell.
“He know it’s true, that if he doesn’t believe in God he is going to Hell,” she said. “But he doesn’t want to believe it, and he doesn’t want to give up his sins. He says, ‘I’m not sure if there is a God, but if there is, I’m going to Hell.'”
“How do you communicate to your son this peace that you feel? This love that you feel? How do you present yourself to him? Are you a calm and loving presence in his life?
Because you understand the love of God, that love and that peace should be flowing through you. Whether he wants it to or not. So how can you be that loving, calm, grace-filled presence in his life?
You’re the parent, and ultimately the decisions are up to you. And I know you are doing the very best that you can. But I want to suggest that maybe you help to move him away from, ‘Unless you say Jesus Christ is Lord, you’re going straight to Hell.’ I want you to speak about God’s love, and grace, and mercy. I want you to speak to him and acknowledge his fears. Because I wonder if he’s just feeling that he’s unworthy.
The message of the Gospel is not that we are worthy, and we deserve heaven based on what we do. It’s based on God’s decision to make everything right, to make us right. And when you communicate that unconditional love to him, I think you are more of God’s loving, grace-filled presence in his life.
I think you need to focus on the love, mercy, and grace of God. Jesus, whether he was meeting the woman at the well who was married six times and living with another dude, whether he was talking about the tax collectors, whoever it was, He just presented them with Himself. And it was His love, His calm, His willingness to meet people exactly where they were. That’s what transformed lives.
He didn’t say to them, ‘Believe in Me or you’re going straight to the hot place.’ He said, ‘Believe in Me, and you will have life. Life in abundance.’ In my opinion, I think there’s too much focus on him saying the right words so that he doesn’t go to Hell. And I think if you are just that loving presence in his life, when he sees you live with grace and peace, when he acknowledges and sees that you confess and admit your own sinfulness, and that but by the grace of God you too would be going to Hell. I think when he sees and hears you talk of these messages of grace, then the anxiety will calm down. His heart will be primed to say, ‘Yes, Lord. I hear your call, and I’ll respond.’
If it weren’t by the grace of God, you and I would not be joining the Lord in eternity either. I think God wants you to look at your life and find those areas that are upsetting you, making you anxious, fearful. And I think it would be more productive for you to have that conversation with your son.
To say, ‘I get fear. I consider God’s judgement and know that I’m not gonna hold up based on what I’m doing. I know that I don’t deserve this. But I just trust in His grace and His mercy. And that’s what brings me peace.’
Listen to the full conversation below:
The Joe Sikorra Show airs weekdays from 9:00-11:00 p.m. Eastern/6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.