1. Our happiness, even in this world, does not depend on the happiness of those who are bound to us by the ties of kindred or of friendship. This is especially the case when their unhappiness proceeds from their own misdeeds. In such a case, we even inflict the punishment ourselves, and feel satisfied to see them suffer according to their deserts. Thus a father banishes from the paternal roof a son or a daughter who has committed a deed that has brought disgrace upon the family. And what is more, the whole family ratify the terrible sentence. The presence and happiness of that brother or sister is no longer necessary for their own happiness. Again, a husband banishes from his presence an unfaithful wife, whom he had formerly loved as his own life. While she was pure, it seemed to him that he could never be happy without her; and now her society has become a positive hinderance to his happiness. Therefore she must go and live alone in her disgrace. It is a just punishment for her infidelity.
If such is the case in this world, why not in heaven? Those of our own who die in sin appear before God in disgrace. He disowns them as unworthy children, or as unfaithful spouses, and as such He banishes them from the kingdom of glory; and we shall undoubtedly ratify the just sentence. Nor will their wretchedness, which is the work of their own hands, disturb our peace or mar our happiness.
2. In heaven, we shall be like God, because we shall see Him as he is. This moral transformation, as we have already seen, is the work of the Beatific Vision. By that glorious vision, and consequent union with God, we shall participate in all the attributes of God which are communicable to a rational nature. One of these attributes is justice -- that is, the power of judging as God does, without passion, prejudice, or any of those motives which, in this world, render our judgments rash, unjust, or partial. Not only shall we be clothed with the power of judging justly, but with it we shall have a desire that every one be rewarded or punished according to his works; and we shall rest perfectly satisfied to see the just sentence carried into effect.
Even now we possess that attribute, as well as others which make us the living images of the Most High. But it is far from being perfect, because our feelings, private interests, and passions warp our judgments, and even reverse them after we have pronounced a just sentence. Suppose, for instance, you hear of a man who has committed a premeditated murder. You are horrified at the atrocious deed, and without a moment's hesitation you pronounce in your heart that man's sentence. Your judgment is that he must die on the scaffold, or, at least, that he be deprived of liberty and condemned to hard labor for the remainder of his days. But you have scarcely pronounced this just sentence when you discover that the murderer is your own father! What a change this one circumstance will bring about in your judgment! If you are of an affectionate nature, you will do all in your power to find circumstances that may lessen or palliate his guilt; and perhaps you may even succeed in making him appear, in your eyes, wholly innocent; and thus your first judgment is entirely reversed. What is it that has thus changed your first judgment? Is it your deep sense of justice? Not at all. Your instinctive feelings of love have blinded you, and made it impossible for you to judge his case fairly, and on its own merits.
But, again, if you are not of an affectionate nature, you may be so transported with rage at your father's crime, that you can find no punishment severe enough for him. And why so? Because you see yourself and your family forever disgraced. You feel your cheek burning with shame, and, in your desire for revenge, you heap maledictions upon your unfortunate father's head. Here, again, your judgment is wrong, because it is dictated by an unmanly desire of revenge. So, in either case, you are unable to judge fairly, and to pronounce a just sentence, simply because the criminal is your own father.
Now, it is very certain that none of these prejudices or passions, which now so much interfere with our judgments, will follow us into heaven. There, clothed with the justice and sanctity of God himself, we shall judge as He does, without passion or prejudice. And the fact that the criminal is our own father, or mother, or other loved one, will neither influence nor reverse our judgments. I do not mean to say that we shall actually sit in judgment and pronounce the sentence of condemnation against our own kindred; but I do mean that, seeing the justice and fairness of God's judgments, we shall readily acquiesce therein, and ratify them, and rest satisfied to see all suffer according to their deserts.
3. A third consideration is taken from the nature of love. When love for any one has taken full possession of our soul, it so completely changes our whole moral nature into the person beloved, that we forget our own private interests, and embrace his cause, his interests, as if they were our own. Henceforth, our will is so absorbed by his, that we seem no longer to possess any will of our own.
Holy Scripture gives us a striking instance of this transforming power of love, in the friendship of Jonathan for David. According to the forcible expression of Holy Writ: "The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul."* David had slain the famous Goliath, and when the Jewish army was returning home in triumph, the women sang: "Saul slew his thousand, and David his ten thousand." King Saul was filled with anger and envy on hearing David praised more than himself; and, from that day, he hated him, and did all in his power to destroy him. His son Jonathan, who loved David as his own soul, left nothing undone to save his friend. He watched everything his father said or did, discovered all his plans against David, and then would go into the forest, at his own peril, and warn his friend of approaching danger. He did more: he forgot, or gave up all his own private interests, and embraced those of David. For, being the son of a king, he had the presumptive right to succeed his father upon the throne; but, instead of himself, he wanted David to reign in his father's place. He did even more: he embraced a line of conduct entirely opposed to the temporal interests of his own father, and he thus materially aided in placing David upon the throne of Israel.
* 1 Kings xviii.
This is a striking instance of the wonderful transforming power of love. Now, if human love has such a power in this world, what shall we say of the power of divine love in heaven! There we shall see God as He is, and that vision will kindle in us a love far greater than ever we had, or could have, for any one in this world. We shall, therefore, spontaneously espouse God's cause, and embrace his interests. We shall love all that He loves, and we shall find it impossible to love them whom he does not and cannot love. Hence, we shall never love Lucifer, nor any of those fallen spirits who sided with him in his rebellion against God, and became demons on that account. Nor shall we ever love any of those who lived a bad life, stubbornly persisted in their sins, and died at enmity with God. They have, by their own act, excommunicated themselves, as it were, from the heart of God. They have, consequently, made it impossible for Him ever to love them. They have also made it impossible for us to love them, even were they father, mother, or any one else that was dear to us in this world. If we can no longer love them, we shall certainly not lose a single degree of our happiness on finding that they are not in heaven.
4. The fourth and last consideration I place before you is, that if the salvation of all their own were necessary for the happiness of the blessed, it might follow that very few, if any, could be happy in heaven. For it may be that there are only very few, if any, among the blessed, who see every member of their family, all their relatives and friends, around them in the abode of bliss. It would follow, too, that even the angels are unhappy; for, before the rebellion of Lucifer and his accomplices, they certainly loved each other, and probably with more perfection and intensity than we ever loved any one in this world. And now they see a vast multitude of their former friends and associates in endless misery. Are they unhappy on that account? Certainly not. It is evident, then, that if we once admit that the salvation of our own is necessary for our individual happiness, we find ourselves compelled to admit also that heaven is a place of sadness and mourning, since there are many there who are not surrounded by those whom they loved in this world. The absurdity which necessarily follows from such an admission is, by itself, a sufficient answer to the difficulty.
Once more: Remember that, in heaven, we shall be like God, because we shall see Him as he is. We shall, therefore, be like God in beatitude. Now, is God made unhappy because some of His creatures have refused him obedience and love, and have, in consequence, lost themselves forever? Certainly not. And did He ever love those same creatures as much as we love father, or mother, brother, sister, or friend? Certainly He did. His love for them was so great, that ours, however pure and ardent, sinks into insignificance when compared to His. Did we ever offer ourselves to suffer every imaginable indignity and torture for our kindred? Did we ever offer even to die a most shameful and cruel death for them? We never did; and if we had even attempted it, we should have found our puny and imperfect love unable to carry us through the terrible sacrifice.
God alone is capable of so great a love. He assumed our nature, and in it He suffered more than human mind can conceive. Look at Him in the garden, oppressed and overpowered with an agony of sorrow. Follow Him through the different stages of his bitter passion. Contemplate that cruel scourging, the crowning with thorns, the filthy spittle which covers His sacred face, and the other insults and indignities heaped upon him. Follow Him to Mount Calvary; see Him there nailed upon an infamous gibbet, suffering every torture of mind and body to his very last breath. And why did He undergo all this? Because He loved us. And now, are all they, whom He loved so well, and for whom he suffered so much, around the throne of his glory in heaven? They certainly are not. Are even all they, who were his special friends in this world, around him in heaven? Surely we have every reason to fear that one of them at least, Judas the traitor, is not there. And is Jesus unhappy because they are not all there? Certainly not. If, then, His happiness is not marred by the loss of those whom he loved so much, neither shall ours be, if we find that some of our own are lost. We shall be like him in beatitude, because we shall see him as he is.
In the mean time, do all in your power to instil principles of virtue into your children, if you are a parent; into your pupils, if you are a teacher, or clothed in any other way with authority over your fellow-creatures. See that none of them be lost through your own fault. For if there is one thing above all others difficult to understand, it is how fathers and mothers can be happy in heaven, when they see their own children lost through their own negligence, or bad example? Again, how can teachers, guardians, and pastors of souls be happy in heaven, when they see those committed to their care ruined forever, through their negligence? Again, how can those men be happy who have seduced others from the path of virtue, by immoral discourses, bad books, and evil actions? These certainly are hard things to understand; and still we must believe that all they who enter heaven are happy. We must believe, moreover, that careless, and even bad parents, negligent teachers, seducers of the innocent, and writers of bad books, will eventually be admitted into heaven, if they die truly repentant. We must believe, moreover, that all such persons will be happy in heaven, no matter how many they have ruined, for the simple reason that no unhappiness can ever find its way into the abode of bliss.