I don’t want to say that I completely buy into the theology of limbo (and yes, I recognize that it is still a legitimate theological viewpoint to hold). However, I have noticed a trend among people that has broadened my understanding of heaven and hell.
I don’t want to say that I encounter on a regular basis “bad” or “evil” people. What I do encounter is people who are living in a manner that is very much of this world. I encounter people with many natural gifts and talents, with a certain amount of satisfaction with life, and yet people who at the same time have no deep love for Jesus Christ.
While I will always hold the traditional notion of punishment for sins and justice as an essential understanding of the life to come, I also want to harmonize such a legalistic outlook with a notion that the life to come is very much a continuation of patterns that we establish in this life. Instead of viewing punishment as an external force applied arbitrarily, I think it is better to understand the punishments afforded to sin as being very much within the sins themselves.
In this sense, I imagine the possibility of a hell of mediocrity, perhaps lacking the fiery chaos of a more confused disposition, but a very tragedy nonetheless. A hell in which someone goes through the doldrums of a life without divine inspiration for all eternity, forever trapped in the illusions of a narrow view of reality.
Not limbo in the traditional sense, but a kind of limbo of an animal existence that no longer is able to captivate or energize. Like a person who is forced to consume the same pleasures in a endless cycle that quickly frustrates the human spirit. This is because from the perspective of eternity all the cares and enjoyments of this world will quickly lose their novelty.
In contrast, a life of intimacy with Jesus Christ involves a very real renunciation of the things of this world. That doesn’t mean that we become detached spirits that no longer enjoy human comfort. Rather, our renunciation allows us to move beyond the surface of reality and to grasp a whole new mode of existence made possible through the grace offered in the sacraments. Through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we encounter a happiness more powerful than the things of this world, and our journey to heaven is simply a continuation of that encounter.
That is why it is important that we establish a relationship with Jesus in this life because ultimately that is what heaven is, intimacy through him, with him, and in him. Let us make haste to turn to the Lord with complete abandonment.