Preliminary Note: The use of the analogy of citizenship in this article has nothing at all to do with the current issue of illegal immigration and children from Central America. Comments attempting to argue immigration issues in this article will simply not be approved.
I have encountered some people—some believers, some not—who object to the Catholic view of Baptism and the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. They ask how is it fair that humanity has to be punished for the sin of Adam and Eve? Others object to our view of Baptism because they think that only a person who can rationally accept the faith can be baptized, and thinking that baptism of children is required implies all children must go to hell.
It sounds arbitrary because I think some people have not understood the story of the Fall and what the sin entailed. Nor do they understand how it impacts each one of us. So I propose this analogy for people to consider.
(Remember . . .every analogy is weak at some point. So it's best to look at the general story as opposed to trying to tie each point to a specific point of theology)
Consider a married couple being gifted with citizenship in a nation. Because of this citizenship, they have access to all the rights, privileges--and the responsibilities that go with them in terms of obeying the laws. They would pass on this citizenship
But instead of carrying out their responsibilities, the couple commits treason against the nation. The result is they are stripped of their citizenship and exiled. What happens to their children?
Well, if children had been born before the couple committed treason, obviously they would have remained citizens because the sins of the parents would not fall on them. If only one of the parents had committed treason, the children born later would still be citizens.
But because both individuals committed treason and lost their citizenship before having any children, any children born to them after this fact have no claim to citizenship. This is not the fault of the ruler. This is the fault of the parents. You cannot give what you do not possess. Since neither parent possesses citizenship, none of their children can possibly be born citizens.
The result is, because this couple committed treason and lost their citizenship, there is literally nothing they can do to make their children citizens. It seems hopeless for any of them.
But, the ruler is aware of their plight and does not want to leave them in some refugee camp. But He simply can't just say, "Well, your treason doesn't matter. I'll just pretend that it didn't happen." So he needs to set up a plan that allows all of them a way to regain citizenship that they lost (the married couple) or never had to begin with (their children). It is a plan that this ruler would carry out at the cost of his son . . . and both were willing to do this for us.
When this plan was carried out, it became possible to become citizens again . . . but not automatically and not with a general grant. Each individual who has reached the age of reason has to make the decision to become a citizen on their own, promising to be faithful to their country. Parents may apply for their children not yet at the age of reason to become citizens, promising to raise them to live in accordance with the rights and responsibilities of the nation.
Unfortunately, some have forgotten the fact that the induction ceremony for citizenship was not an option and not a symbol. It is the means the ruler set in place as the ordinary way to become a citizen. Some believe that as long as you have good intentions, the act of becoming a citizen is not necessary. Others think that parents should not apply for their children's citizenship. Why not just let them decide whether or not to decide when they become adults? So as not to prejudice them, they tell their children nothing about this choice. After all, if this ruler is just and merciful, it won't matter with such a small thing, will it?
Yes this ruler is just and merciful . . . he makes citizenship free to all who seek it.He also sends members of his kingdom to go out and make known the importance of becoming citizens and living according to the laws of the kingdom. See, this ruler knows that a calamity is coming that will sweep the neighboring lands and his kingdom will be the only place which is safe. That is when the ruler will determine who may enter.
Those who accepted citizenship and followed the laws (or would have if they had only known what they needed to do) will be admitted. Those who reject his authority or his laws cannot enter—in fact they would probably refuse to enter the country. Certainly the ruler cannot be faulted for excluding people from his kingdom who refuse to accept his citizenship and his laws. He offers it to everyone, but some will refuse to cooperate, just as the first couple did.
God is that ruler. Heaven is His kingdom. The plan allowing people to enter His kingdom that cost the death of His Son was the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the way to citizenship His teachings are His laws and His emissaries are His Church. The calamity is the end of the world.
Now when you consider that, the knowing refusal to accept God or His Plan or His Baptism or His Laws or His Church is not a thing of no importance . . . it is the rejection of God, the refusal to accept His reaching out to us to save us.
God will judge us with Love and Mercy and Justice. But the person who refuses to accept God's Love and Mercy will face what's left . . . His justice. God doesn't withdraw it. The sinner refuses it in this case. Since Heaven is the place of God's love and mercy, where can the person who refuses it go? God will not force it on the person.
The only place left is the place outside Heaven . . . the ruins. Hell. Hell isn't a final failing grade for people who aren't "nice enough." It's the choice of the person who knowingly refuses God.
That's why the Church can say God is Love and Mercy—and say Hell exists, and not contradict herself.