Dear Father Angelo,
there’s something I would like to understand: according to the Catholic Church, Heaven is the perfect union with God.
Doesn’t this perfect union with God imply an annihilation of personal identity?
I will explain it better: as long as there is a thinking ego, its identity is separate from that of God. If this separation ceases, the ego disappears, incorporated by God. To see it this way, it is very reminiscent of the oriental mentality.
If the self of the saints were to survive, they would be separated from God, and therefore in Hell. Which is absurd.
Response from the priest
1. The perfect union with God that Christians speak of is not a material union, analogous to that of water which is combined with wine and is lost in the wine.
As you say yourself, such a union recalls the dissolution of the ego into the whole or into nothingness (entering nirvana), as the Buddhists would say.
2. The perfect union with God that Christians speak of is the perfect union in charity.
Charity, according to St. Thomas, is a supernatural friendship with God.
3. The perfect union between two friends does not dissolve individuals but rather unites them in the perfect harmony of the will.
The pagan philosopher Aristotle already said that friends will and do not will exactly the same (they have an idem velle and an idem nolle).
4. The perfect union with God is therefore the perfection of charity, of the friendship with God.
Jesus said: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (Jn 14:21).
5. The perfect union between our will and that of God is aimed at making God communicate Himself as much as possible to the one who loves Him.
As long as we are in the present life, the greatest union with God is that which is realized in grace. In fact, “sanctifying grace is given chiefly in order that man’s soul may be united to God by charity” (St. Thomas, S. th., II-II 172.4)
In the afterlife, the perfect union will be achieved in glory, through the beatific vision, in the perfect enjoyment of God known and loved perfectly.
The perfection of charity, that is of friendship, does not consist in annihilating or dissolving the friend, but in willing the friend to live forever and eternally enjoy everything that God enjoys.
6. The self of the Saints is not separate from God, but rather distinct from Him.
If it were separate, you would be right.
Instead, even in the distinction they are one.
While I wish you to reach the perfect union of charity here and in the hereafter, I assure you my prayer and I bless you.
Translated by Chiara P.