Last night, our parish had it's weekly meetings of young people to discuss spiritual issues. The topic was on the Apocalypse and Second Coming, but it quickly evolved into discussing "how good do you have to be for God to let you into Heaven". Of course, we discussed how salvation is only through grace and you never can really be good enough, but it continued on to a perhaps more interesting topic. Although I'm not here to comment on who God will allow into Heaven and who he won't, many (most?) theologians and Church leaders believe that Protestants (and even non-Christians) are not excluded from God's grace, and that he will have to be the judge of them. Also, there are individuals who live their entire lives as being "non-religious" and then suddenly have a 4th quarter "buzzer" conversion. Sometimes this doesn't seem fair to us, as faithful Catholics we are supposed to hold ourselves to a much higher standard including the "dreaded" confession. I think that the parable of the prodigal son is our guide for this kind of event. Sometimes we overlook what the Father says to his son who stayed with him the whole time, though. He tells him "son, you are always with me, and everything that I have is yours". Instead of worrying about who gets to party on Earth before they get to Heaven, we should remember that we have the fullness of the faith. We have the beauty of all the sacraments. Confession and the Eucharist strenthen us and forgive our sins. We can live a much happier and richer life here on Earth because we have everything the Father owns in our own hands, we don't have to wait until late in life or worry about such things. We need to stop thinking that worldly life is the "good life" and remember that actually the fullness of the Catholic Faith is. We should relish the fact that we are with the Father now.
For a more detailed discussion of The Parable of the Prodigal Son, I reccomend reading Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazereth.
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