For as long as I remember, God has always been a part of my life. As a child, I remember being read Bible stories by my mother. I recall my very first catechism class where, during that first week, I earned a Hershey bar by learning to recite “The Lord’s Prayer”. Even when quite young, I often mediated on various spiritual concepts such as the immortality of the soul, length of eternity, what Heaven might be like, and the horrors that may exist in Hell. During my teenage years and early twenties, when many of my peers stopped attending Mass or the church services of their respective denominations, I never considered skipping Mass. My belief in God was strong and I knew that one day we will have to account for how we lived our lives. In recent years my love for the Lord has only grown. I’m now more certain of God and the afterlife than ever before.
I’ve learned that our souls, to paraphrase St. Augustine, “Will not rest until they rest in thee”. When God created our souls he designed them with the ultimate end of Heaven in mind. We are made to one day adore god in the Beatific Vision. If we fail in achieving the goal of spending eternity with our Lord, we will forever be unsatisfied, frustrated, and in great pain.
As my faith grows, so does my concern for the salvation of others. I certainly don’t know who may be on the road to salvation and who is not. Even my own fate will remain a mystery to me, until the day of my earthly death, when I learn where I stand with God. Still, I know that as I strive to love and serve the Lord, there are many out in the world who aren’t even trying.
Some of these people, call themselves atheists, other are agnostics, and many others don’t seem to give God much more than an occasional passing thought. Often they are found living good lives in the sense that they are hard-working and getting along with their fellow citizens in society. But they literally do not care about the afterlife if they believe in it at all.
I’ve been spending a lot of time recently trying to figure out why so many don’t appreciate the gift of life they’ve been given. What has happened in society that has caused so many to forget or not care about God? Perhaps it may be due to the fact that much of society, either consciously or unconsciously has “bought into” one or more of the “lies of the Devil”. A few of Satan’s lies that come to my mind include: Heaven and Hell don’t really exist, Heaven is boring, Hell is empty, the Church is corrupt, it’s too hard to be holy, and modern man doesn’t need God.
Obviously an atheist will not believe in the existence of Heaven or Hell. To an atheist, this life is the only one there is. No need to concern yourself with the “burden of religious duties and obligations”. Personally I find atheists to be very baffling creatures. For if God does not exist, then there is no right or wrong. Yet most atheists do live by some moral code or another. They still all have a conscience. Whether they realize it or not, that conscience comes from outside themselves. It comes from God.
The myth of “Heaven is boring”, will more likely be an attitude coming from an agnostic. How wrong they are! Heaven is so underrated! We cannot put into words the unending joy, peace, love, and beauty of Heaven. God is infinite and while our souls (even in Heaven) are finite, God will be able to enlarge our souls over time so that our love, joy, and understanding of God will continue to grow and grow. Thus we will be perfectly happy and satisfied in Heaven while ever achieving even greater levels of happiness and satisfaction through all of eternity!
Then there’s the “Hell is empty” lie. Oh how I wish it were true that Hell was empty! I do not wish anyone to end up in that horrible place! Unfortunately all indications point to a very well populated Hell. Thru God’s revelation we know that Lucifer (Satan), and perhaps up to a third of the angels, chose not to serve God and became demons. These demons are all in or bound for Hell. Additionally, Jesus’s own words in scripture indicate that many of us, perhaps even a majority of mankind, may be on the path to eternal destruction. For those who have a hard time with the thought that God might send someone to Hell, remember that God doesn’t “send” anyone to Hell. It is rather the soul which, at the point of the death of the body, will either be disposed to love God or to reject him. Those souls found loving God above all else, will be drawn to Heaven. Perhaps many of those souls will spend time in Purgatory in order to remove any residual attachment they have for sin. (For nothing impure can enter Heaven.) But they will one day be as perfectly happy as they can be--adoring God in the Beatific Vision. However, those who in their earthly life are in mortal sin, those who have preferred some earthly good over their Creator, will find themselves, at the point of death, not drawn to God at all. Rather they will be forever in torment as they find themselves forever separated from the one Good for whom they were created to spend eternity with.
Often I’ve heard the “Church is corrupt” statement. Yes, there has been scandal in the past. There probably will be more scandals in the future too! The Church here on earth (what Catholics call “the Church Militant”) is composed of human beings and some of those human beings make big mistakes. But just because there are some bad members in the Church does not mean that the Church as a whole is corrupt. The Church is in fact, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. It has spiritual and mystical dimensions in addition to the visible organizational structure that we see here on earth. The Church was founded by Jesus and the “gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
If you’ve bought into the “too difficult to be holy”, argument let me assure you that the Lord does not give someone goals that are out of his reach. In fact, God usually leads us in “baby steps”. That is, he does not lay out his whole plan for us all at once but guides us one step at a time (to salvation) if we but open our mind and hearts to him. When Saul was knocked to the ground on the way to Damascus, God did not lay out his whole plan to him at that time. He simply told Saul to go into Damascus and there he would be told what to do. Throughout Paul’s missionary life, he often did not have much advance notice at all (if any) of where he would be going next. Often Paul found his plans uprooted thru guidance from God (the dream of the Macedonian), shipwrecks, and other revelations from the Holy Spirit while praying in the Christian communities. The same is true for all of us seeking holiness. We do not have to become a St. Paul or Mother Teresa overnight. God will lead us one step at a time. Never will the Lord give you a cross you cannot bear or goal you cannot achieve. Additionally, you’ll find a life of holiness not to be a burden at all, but a life of great joy. You will still have pains, sufferings, and other challenges in your holy earthly life but you will also have the Good Lord and all his graces to help you thru it all.
Finally, a common notion that Satan seems to have a lot of success with these days, is convincing us that we are too sophisticated, to “modern” to need God. That God was a quaint idea for past ages when mankind was less technological and more ignorant. That today with our sophisticated universities and other forms of higher education, “we know better” and we can do away with the notion of a God. Personally, I find such an attitude quite baffling as the more I learn about the intricacies of nature, either at the macro level (universe full of planets, stars, and galaxies) or micro level (microscopic life, atoms, and subatomic particles), the more I see God and his grand design in the scheme of things. There is no way that our visible universe could have been created by “chance”. Indeed, if you study it deeply enough, there is no way that even a single cell amoeba could have been created by chance. God was and is intimately involved in the grand design and continual evolution of our universe. And the visible universe that we see is only a small fraction of God’s total creation.
What can we do to counter these lies of Satan? How can we convince those who are indifferent to the Faith that there is indeed a wonderful, all-powerful, personal, and loving God who wants us to spend a joyful eternity with him in Paradise?
I can think of two things we can do right off the bat. First, prayer. As with heaven, I truly believe that prayer is underrated. When we pray for the right causes (and the well-being of our fellow humans is always a great cause!) we will make a significant difference. In fact, we’ll make a huge difference! God will answer prayer and answer it abundantly. We may not always see the results first hand but prayer is an extremely powerful tool in the arsenal of a Christian life.
Secondly, for those of us who are experiencing the joy of the Lord, we must live the gospel so that others can see our joy. Of course, we must do this in a loving way and never be conceited. Besides, we ourselves don’t even know for sure our own standing with God. As St. Paul says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phillipians 2:12).
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(This article was last updated August 10, 2017)