No love, no heaven
“Early in childhood we learned that God is all-powerful. He can do anything. Later we came to understand that, although God can do anything, He cannot do a no-thing. For example, He cannot make a square circle. The words ‘square’ and ‘circle’ are contradictory words. They cancel each other out. A square circle is not a something; it is a nothing, and God does not do nothings.
This is a truth to be remembered if and when we may be tempted to commit a grave sin. No one who is in his right mind and who believes in heaven and hell, would want to jeopardise his eternal happiness for the sake of a present and very temporary pleasure or gain. Unfortunately, however, many persons have a mistaken and sentimental understanding of God. They may not put it into words, but in the act of sinning their unconscious reasoning is, ‘God is a good God. He will not let me lose heaven for this thing which I am doing.’
Sin is a denial to God of our love
What such persons fail to understand is that heaven, which is the possession of God in a union of love, and sin, which is a denial to God of our love, are contradictory concepts. They cancel each other out. Without love for God we are as incapable of possessing God in heaven as a man without eyes is incapable of seeing the colour of flowers.
But why cannot God make us love Him?
But why cannot God make us love Him? Why cannot He put love into us if we are lacking in love? Here again we encounter the same difficulty: a contradiction in terms. Love for another person cannot be forced upon us. If love is not freely given, it is not love at all. ‘Forced’ and ‘love’ cancel each other out. A forced love is not a something, it is a nothing.
God gives us a margin of freedom
Fortunately for us, God does His best, with countless graces, to instill and preserve in us a love for Himself. He wants our love. He wants to have us with Himself in heaven. Indeed, without His help, we would be incapable of making an act of love for Him. But, however powerful the graces He may give us, there remains to us a margin of freedom. We must make the choice. We must want to love Him, with a love expressed by our acceptance of His will. ‘What God wants, I want’; this, and not any sentimental imitation, is the real act of love. Our opportunity for making this act of love, this surrender of self to God, ends at death.
When a photographer is developing his films, there comes a point where he plunges the film into a chemical bath called a fixer. The fixer immediately stops the process of development. From that moment on, the film remains permanently unchanged. Whatever the contrasts of light and shadow, they are irrevocably set.
This earthly life is our time of development
For us, this life is the time of development. This is the period during which we generate in ourselves a love for God and, it is to be hoped, grow in that love. Death is the fixer. The moment that death intervenes, the direction of our will is permanently set – toward God or away from God, love or no love. Whichever it is, it will be that way forever.
Sin is the opposite of love
Once we possess God in heaven and are possessed by Him, we no longer can refuse Him our love. He is so infinitely lovable that, seeing Him, it would be impossible not to love Him. But, to achieve this happy destiny we must here and now kindle and nourish the feeble spark of love which, when it bursts into full flame in heaven, will all but tear us apart with ecstasy.
It would be a tragedy of the most horrible kind if a person were to choose self over God (which is sin) in the expectation that God, being good, would somehow set things right. God is infinitely good and all-powerful as well; but He cannot do a no-thing. He cannot equate heaven, which is love, with sin, which is love’s opposite.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, “One Step Enough”, 1966