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(Annibale Carracci. Christ in Glory with the Saints. [Source])
Sooner or later, Christians are asked: "How hard, or how easy, is it to get to Heaven?" This apparently trivial, and maybe even selfish question, is in fact very important. It's related to many theological and philosophical problems, so if we don't find the correct answer to this question, many things will go wrong.
What are some of the more common mistakes concerning this question? Basically, they are all Satanic variations on the bad old "Heaven doesn't exist" theme:
2.1) Heaven doesn't exist. Also known as the error of Atheism. See among others "Spiderman vs. Atheist-Man".
2.2) Heaven is automatic, so in other words Heaven doesn't exist. Also known as "The Heresy of the Typical Bad Quebec Priest". See among others "If Heaven is Unavoidable, Apostasy is Inevitable!".
2.3) Heaven exists, but God didn't found the Catholic religion, so it's just as if Heaven didn't exist, since we don't know how to get there. See among others "Papal Infallibility, and the Stupid Gods".
2.4) Heaven exists, and the Catholic moral teachings really do explain to us how to get there, but it's impossible to respect all those rules, so it's just as if Heaven didn't exist. This is the error I will now discuss.
Of course, people rarely claim outright that "It's just as if Heaven didn't exist, since even though we know how to get there, we are unable to respect those rules". Satan is very clever, and he knows how to dress up his errors so they appear like truths.
The people presenting this error usually wrap it up with an abundant amount of warm and fuzzy feelings. They make it seem as though they "are on your side", as though "they really, really empathize with your problems", and that they "feel in their hearts just how sincere you really are, and just how hard you are trying to respect those rules, without the possibility of success".
These bad people don't just use a trowel to spread their feelings on you really thick, they also perform this trick in certain circumstances only. They will never do this for a rule that is easy for you to respect. For example, to get to Heaven you have to respect not only God's Laws, but also all good human laws, like stopping at intersections where there are stop signs. If you stupidly avoid stopping at an intersection, and hurt a pedestrian, these bad people won't try to convince you that it's impossible to respect the law! They know that you know that it's just a matter of opening your eyes, obeying the speed limit, and shutting off that darn cell phone.
The people presenting this error usually wait for you to be in a situation where respecting the rules is difficult for you, now, given your lack of grace, knowledge and virtue. For example, if you have problems being chaste, they will insinuate that you couldn't possibly avoid using contraceptives, or the condom, or avoid masturbation, or unmarried cohabitation, etc.
Of course, since these bad people just want you to go to Hell, they don't have to make you stick to some predefined error. Any road that doesn't lead to Heaven leads to Hell, so it doesn't really matter which error or combination of errors you embrace.
Let's take a example. Suppose you believe that the Catholic Church truly teaches the rules you must respect to get to Heaven. These people, finding out you have problems with chastity, might insinuate that some particular rule is impossible for you to obey. Then, they might insinuate that since you can't respect them all (supposedly), then you can't go to Heaven. Or, they might try to convince you that after all, the rules of the Catholic Church are not true, that they are not necessary to get to Heaven. There are endless variations (which explains the necessity of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in order to be able to see and avoid the Devil's traps, but that's another Lost Sermon).
In a way, all problems begin when we cut ourselves off from God, and so all solutions begin by "reconnecting" ourselves to God. The error that says we can't respect the true teachings of the Catholic Church requires us to disconnect ourselves from God as Almighty and Loving. If God is Almighty, then no obstacle can prevent God from getting us into Heaven, and if God is Loving, then God will always be there to help us when we need Him.
This is explained in many places in the teachings of the Catholic Church, whether the Bible, or the Church Fathers, or the Magisterium, or the writings of saints, etc. Here are a few samples:
God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with
the trial He will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall
be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will give
him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he be given him a serpent? If ye then,
being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more
shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Come to me [to Christ, who is the Almighty and Loving God], all ye that labor
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, [the
"yoke" and "burden" of the official teachings of Christ, i.e. the teachings of
the Catholic Church] for my yoke is easy, and my burden light
In the world, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have
overcome the world
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee
The Lord shall fight for you; and ye shall hold your peace
If you carry your cross generously, your cross will itself carry you, and
lead you to your desired destination
[Imitation of Christ, Bk. II, chap. 12, #5].
But temptations can be overcome, sins can be avoided, because together with
the commandments the Lord gives us the possibility of keeping them
[Veritatis Splendor, #102, but #103 also is superb].
If someone says that God's Commandments are impossible to observe, even for
man justfied and established in grace, may he be anathema.
[Denzinger #1568, see also #1536]
There is unfortunately a whole series of dumb things we can do which will make it unnecessarily hard and unpleasant to get to Heaven, or even make it impossible. Here are a few examples:
5.1) Ignoring the official teachings of the Catholic Church. Catholics have the responsibility of learning what Jesus Christ teaches. An excellent overview is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
5.2) Avoiding prayer. Without prayer, it is impossible, impossible , to obtain the graces that are necessary to obey God's commandments. And if we disobey God's commandments, we can't go to Heaven.
5.3) Being allergic to the Sacraments, especially Confession and Communion. The Eucharist is the best medication for our weaknesses, but we must never go near it, without going first to Confession, if we are in a state of mortal sin.
5.4) Pretending Science doesn't exist. We need supernatural help to get to Heaven, but we are men, so we also need natural help. You can throw all the Catechisms and Rosaries you want at a problem, but if that problem is not a religious problem, you won't solve it. If your problem is medical, you need a physician. If your car won't start, you don't need a miracle, you need a car mechanic. If you're confused about what morality is, or you don't have a method to acquire virtue, you need to talk to a good philosopher. (Of course, we rarely have a single problem, but many at once, which requires many different kinds of help.)
5.5) Trying to get the rewards of virtue, without the effort of acquiring virtue. Virtue makes it fun and easy to act well. At first, it's hard to perform the act of a virtue we don't have, but if we fight the good fight, eventually we acquire that virtue.
If a supposedly Catholic Priest tells you that respecting all the moral teachings of the Catholic Church is impossible, or even very difficult, then you should ask him some questions. If God exists, and He has founded the Catholic Church, then thanks to God it will in a way be fun and easy to go to Heaven. If not, then you should ask that Priest if he continues to pretend to be a Catholic, only because it's fun and easy to cash his paycheck!
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