BY ANGELA McCARTHY
A student recently came to me in distress in the lecture break to ask the question ‘Who goes to heaven?’
Her husband is Catholic and he wanted their two children to be baptised but she has been resistant because she has been brought up as a Mormon.
Her mind was in a state of distress and flux as she considered what she wanted for her children. She had erroneously been told by someone who claimed to be ‘in the know’, that if she wasn’t baptised as well she would not be able to be with her husband and children in the afterlife. This had concerned her deeply and so she was considering joining Catholicism purely to be assured of an afterlife with those she loves the most.
A problem comes to mind here. The previous teaching propagated by Catholics that you had to be Catholic to go to heaven is not the doctrine of the Church but somehow the minds of people have not changed from that error.
There are millions of very good, faith-filled, people in this world who have not, and who will never receive Baptism but who will be glorified after death because Jesus Christ died for us all, not just for some.
The way in which they live their lives in the knowledge and faith of their various beliefs and values draws them into the love of God to no lesser extent than Catholics and all other Christians.
Those of us on earth cannot fully know the mind of God but the God I believe in would not delineate a particular group and damn the rest.
A similar question that often comes up is ‘what happens to my animal when it dies?’ Many of us who are animal lovers have experienced the deep pain of the loss of an animal who has been faithful and connected in very special ways to our family, they are family. Lots of us cried during the movie Red Dog because we recognise the value of such rich interaction.
I have had beautiful experiences with the various dogs we have lived with and loved in our lives. A current canine member of our family will know when you are ill or distressed and simply put his paw upon your lap to show concern.
‘You don’t have to walk me this morning because you need to go back to bed and get rid of that ‘flu,’ he ‘said’ on one particular occasion. They greet us with unfailing enthusiasm when we come home feeling tired and lack lustre, and show us how to treat everyone who comes home, no matter how we might feel ourselves.
They know how to be gentle with a tiny person, and how to avoid the rampages of a 2 year old. They know how to walk slowly with an elderly person.
Paul assures us’“that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.’ (Romans 8:22-23).
How this happens has been open to much theological speculation for many centuries, and there are those who would like to limit the restoration to those who belong to a particular group but our God is inclusive, revealed through Jesus Christ, and then through the inspired writings of those, like Paul, chosen to give us the truth.
Following death, the whole of creation comes to a knowledge of God and will be fully restored in the end times.
Dr Angela McCarthy is a lecturer in Theology in the School of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Perth.
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