Friday, December 21, 2012

A Wrong Way to Heaven

This Advent I’ve been reading many great meditations about Jesus’ birth, and along the way I was led to consider again what is “good”, and how both a good means AND a good end purpose are required for a “good” thing. 
I wrote a series of posts a while back about the road to heaven and in them I considered that there are good, better, and best ways to get to heaven.  The best ways involved using Jesus, His teaching and His Church as our personal guide.  One of the poorer ways was going forward strictly by a “gut feel” of how to get there.  Now I’m sure there are many people who do get to heaven that way, but looking at our culture today I suspect there are many more who get lost choosing that route.  But back to the original question:  Is there a WRONG way to heaven?
I’m summarizing here again something I previously delved into:  everything created has a nature and an associated purpose.  To violate the nature of something is to use it contrary to its purpose, for example, to use a table as a car jack would be contrary to its purpose, so much so that it would destroy the table.  Things used contrary to their purpose are used in the wrong way.
We would be trying to get to heaven in the wrong way if we violated the nature of our body and soul by trying to get to heaven on our own.  Man is a social animal; it is in his nature.  For man to function as he was created, as is in his nature, he needs to associate with others, the Church family (a tool designed for getting man to heaven), and God.  We will be all together in heaven at the end, and so we need to work on being together now, in order to achieve that end unity.  This is in man’s nature to do.  I’ve said often in the past (and demonstrated from various ways) that no man is an island.  This also holds true on the supreme purpose of our life:  getting to heaven.
My “business card” for this blog reads:  “Let me tell you what great things He has done for me.”  I read that quote again in the Office this morning.  I think it was a reminder to me that He is helping me to get to heaven --- including through you and others who influence my life; you and God and others help me to get to heaven.  My little business card is a public proclamation that I know I cannot get there alone.
I fear there are many who don’t understand that.  They are trying to get to heaven in the wrong way, on their own.  And our culture seems to applaud them.
Even members of the little Protestant Bible Study Group I sit with in the coffee shop each week acknowledge that “Sola Scriptura” has a degree of consensus involved.  That’s why they meet as a group to discuss the Bible.  But there are many, even Catholics, who act as sole definers of “their” meaning of Scripture and of Church teachings.  They act with confidence that they are doing what is right and will merit heaven (or at least not go to hell) by their actions, for which only they hold themselves accountable.  But in acting this way they are working toward a good end, heaven, and using their bodies in ways contrary to their nature --- not a good means.  A good end but a bad means to achieve it equates to a wrong way.
By his nature, man is not a solitary being, existing without social or familial ties, or since Jesus came, without His Church.  Also in the Office this morning I read some words by St. Augustine:  “True shepherds take care of their sheep, not themselves.”  Based on Scripture, Augustine was calling himself and other Church leaders to task:  they must lead.  But by his words WE are also called to task:  we must follow and join with others.  In fact, the one sheep who wandered off on his own who was described in Scripture as being “astray,” and NOT as one “finding his own way home.”
I believe there is a wrong way to get to heaven, which has us relying on our own judgments alone (and not our shepherds), and trusting in God’s mercy alone because: “we’re trying to get to heaven.”
Even Jesus Christ Himself said that there will be some who think they are doing the right things to get to heaven, but when they get to the gates He will say: “I do not know you.”  And they will ask: “Lord, when did we … not minister to you.”  Then He will answer them: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”  Jesus was pointing out that we need to work with others to get to heaven.
One cannot build or deepen one’s personal faith, of which Baptism is the source, only through private dialogue with Jesus, because faith has the dimension of communion with others.  And in this dimension, faith is also to be born and developed. … The same Holy Spirit acts in everyone.  His graces are received not only for oneself, but also for others.    The Gift of Faith, by Tadeusz Dajczer, pp 173-4
Jesus doe not condemn anyone for helping the poor or hungry, those are good ends, but He condemns them for thinking they know how to do it, alone, without His Church, without Him.  They sought heaven in the wrong way.  Like the rich man’s donations versus the widow’s mite, what we do does not merit heaven, it’s where our heart is!  As Dajczer notes, faith has a community dimension; it requires that we trust in something outside of ourself.
Yet how much we value “our right to choose.” 
I read much; I write much; I try to help others much; and I try to listen to others and God.  In my solitary life, I try to live with and in others.  Even the wisest Man who ever lived did not know everything:  “Only the Father knows the hour …” 
So why do so many of us think we know the truth of everything?  And if we believe in heaven, think we can get there alone?


  1. There is much food for thought here, Tom. As usual, you have prodded your readers to re-think their method of getting to heaven. It's good to remember always that not everyone who cries "Lord, Lord" is the "in" crowd. To be in community with the Church is to think with the Church. I agree that it's the best tool for getting to heaven.

  2. Thank you, Maryellen. I pray you and Clinton have a joyous Christmas.