In relation to Christís advice to the His flock - that we should not be of this world - how are we to act? He dispenses precious advice to us all through His ministry, but should we infer from His statement that if we are not to act in accordance with the ways of this world, that He wants us to act and perform in accordance with heavenly ways Ė a destiny to which we will hopefully be returning?
For almost all of us, this world is a gigantic sponge that sucks from us the very heavenly life that we need to traverse the narrow path back to our real home. What is sad is that so many today feel perfectly comfortable and justified in ignoring the wisdom that comes from the mouth of Jesus and proceed to make up their own rules for living that do not align too well with Godís laws and directives.
Does it not seem easier and less bothersome to make up rules as we go along rather than trusting God to know what is best for us? Godís rules tend to seem so rigid. At Mass today, the first reading was from Ecclesiastes, and it concerned the very common observation that, on the surface, good things always seem to happen to bad people and conversely, bad things happen to those who appear to be good. If your faith is stalled in a superficial stage, this premise may not only appear to be true, but even worse, unjust.
The truth is that God tests those He is drawing unto Himself. God already knows exactly how we will react in any given situation and so, out of love, He implements the purification process in our lives here on earth so we might not have to spend so much time in purgatory. Is that not something for which you would want to thank God? So if you find yourself being tested by Him, I pray you will pass. As tempting as it may be to complain about the test, dispense with the whining and the ďWhy me, God?Ē and be thankful for the opportunity He has given you.
It is amazing how many of us, in the face of adversity, turn against God, and so He will allow us to spend our heaven on earth and after that there is hell to pay. Those from whom the worldly sponge has sucked the gift of knowledge, are left with confusion, and a diabolical disorientation (a term used by Sister Lucia, the seer of Fatima) which allow them to believe in two false premises. The first is that there is no hell. It does not seem to matter to them how much effort Jesus put into teaching about hell while He was here on earth. Neither do they ponder why He put more effort into warning us about hell than He did instructing us about heaven itself. The second premise is the false trust in Godís all-encompassing mercy, no matter what. This is an unjustified hope because they do not understand, or donít want to understand, that Godís mercy is for those who love Him, who repent and turn back to Him with all their hearts. For those who do not, there is Godís justice.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen had this to say about the subject: "There are many reasons why the modern world has ceased to believe in hell...if a man has led a wicked life, he does not want to be disturbed in his wrongdoings by harsh words about justice. His wish that there be no final punishment for his crimes thus becomes father to the thought that there is no such thing as hell." Sheen goes on to say, "How can a God of love create a place of everlasting punishment?" This is like asking why a God of love should be a God of justice. It forgets that the sun which warms so gently may also wither, and the rain that nourishes so tenderly may also rot. Those who cannot reconcile the God of love with hell do not know the meaning of love."
The aforementioned sponge sucked common sense from nine out of ten biblical lepers because we know that only one came back to thank the Lord. And although Lazarus suffered so much that the dogs licked his sores, it was father Abraham who greeted him in heaven. His employer, who denied Lazarus even scraps from the table, went to hell. He lived a great life here, but in the end, he went to hell.
And has not common sense been drained from those who think they can support the architects of the culture of death, the ones whose contributions to humanity include the elimination of 45 million babies? This onslaught could only have occurred with the help of those claiming to be Catholic. What will be the address of their eternal home?
I am sure you know by now that my sponge is a metaphor for Satan. The greatest coup he ever staged is convincing most of us on this planet that he does not exist. Non-believers claim to be intelligent people, but with diabolical disorientation in the mix, there is no form of intelligence that can penetrate his wall of deception. Only the grace of God can accomplish this. Donít ever close the door on grace. Keep an eye open for those whom God sends into our lives to get us back on the narrow path. Saint John Bosco helped me.
Saint John Bosco was given many visions by God, and one of his most frightening is a dissertation on the fiery place. A non-believer in hell would likely be willing to blow off even a saint who has witnessed, firsthand, the intensity of its heat. Below is just a small part of his narration of the vision. Do you believe?
I looked up and read these words: "The place of no reprieve." I realized that we were at the gates of Hell. The guide led me all around this horrible place.Ē
At the end of his lengthy dream-trip to the outer walls of hell, his guide said to him, "Now that you have seen what others suffer, you, too, must experience a touch of Hell."
I could not muster enough courage and tried to get away, but he held me back. "Try it," he insisted. Gripping my arm firmly, he pulled me to the wall. "Only one touch," he commanded, "so that you may say you have both seen and touched the walls of eternal suffering and that you may understand what the last wall must be like if the first is so unendurable. Look at this wall!" I did, intently. It seemed incredibly thick. "There are a thousand walls between this and the real fire of Hell," my guide continued. "A thousand walls encompass it, each a thousand measures thick and equally distant from the next one. Each measure is a thousand miles. This wall therefore is millions and millions of miles from Hell's real fire. It is just a remote rim of Hell itself."
When he said this, I instinctively pulled back, but he seized my hand, forced it open, and pressed it against the first of the thousand walls. The sensation was so utterly excruciating that I leaped back with a scream and found myself sitting up in bed. My hand was stinging and I kept rubbing it to ease the pain. When I got up this morning I noticed that it was swollen. Having my hand pressed against the wall, though only in a dream, felt so real that, later, the skin of my palm peeled off.
In Scripture, Christ references hell by several different terms. One is these terms is Gehenna.
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one. (Luke 12:4-5.)
Then there is the lake of fire.
And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:10).
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death (Rev 21:8).
There are many, many others.
Then, Christ speaks of being tested Himself by Satan and yet skeptics still think Godís mercy would not allow such things. Asked whether Christ is a liar, they would emphatically say no. This paradox for them is rationalized by asserting that those who put credence in these statements simply do not understand the true meaning of the Scriptures.
God did not make all of this that difficult to understand. He admonishes the faithful in Scripture, ďLet your yes be yes and your no be no.Ē To me, this means that one cannot say he is Catholic and then choose what parts of the faith he will accept as worthy of his belief. The denial of just one aspect of Catholic dogma, if not repented, leads in just one direction. And the ticket is one-way.
What if I am wrong? Itís no big deal because there is nothing lost (except maybe a little self-indulgence.) But what if Iím not? What if the Cafeteria Catholics are wrong?
Iíll just sum it all up by leaving you with a parting thought: if you are enthralled at how good your life is, and you have no problem making up your own rules to keep it that way, give some thought to where those remaining on earth will be sending your mail.