Sunday evening, April 2, we held our last Catholicism 101 for the 2022-2023 school year: The Rest of Eternity: What Happens After? The questions that sparked this discussion were questions about Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. The challenge with this topic is we have Church teaching, but there are just some questions that cannot be answered prior to our deaths and all is revealed.
To begin, Father Tony gave a short synopsis of our Biblical understanding of what happens after death. In the oldest part of the Old Testament, the belief was once you were dead, you were dead and there was nothing else. As time went on, that understanding changed. In Maccabees, the people were encouraged to pray for the dead. If they dead are in heaven, they don't need our prayers. If they are in hell, our prayers won't help them. However, if they are in purgatory, being purified and prepared to meet the Lord in Heaven, our prayers will support them in their process.
We do not have a blueprint of what heaven looks like. We are reassured heaven is the place where we will be in the presence of God. We expect that we will be reunited with those who have gone before and been received into heaven. However, the details of what that looks like have not been revealed to those who haven't already gone to heaven.
Equally, we do not have a blueprint of what heaven looks like. We believe Hell is the absolute exclusion from the presence of God, with no hope of ever gaining that opportunity. We also believe we are aware that is our eternal situation.
Finally, Father Tony addressed the question, if God loves us, why is there a Hell? The hard reality is the reason there is a Hell, and the reason why people are in Hell, is because of the choices they have made. Lucifer was the first who chose to separate himself from, and to make himself an of, God. These were not accidents, but deliberate decisions made by individuals to separate themselves from God. When they willingly and willfully chose a life without God, they also willingly and willfully chose an eternity without God.
It is only in this life that we get to make those choices. Once dead, so are the opportunities for choices. We have this life to build our after life because "what's next" is a continuation of "what's now."