You Can Go to Hell

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by ArtFortheGloryofGod https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by ArtFortheGloryofGod https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

I wrote this post for the National Catholic Register. As soon as it went up, there was a comment saying that there were actually two Judgements, not one, and another attacking someone besides themselves — in this case, the Jesuits — for not following Church teaching.

One of the commenters remarked that there was “nothing new” in this particular post.

All I can say about that is I should hope not. What I am saying here is old. It’s is 2,000 years old. But it is just as revolutionary today as it was when it was first spoken.

Here’s the point, and it has nothing to do with other people’s sins or nit-picking over theological points. Get ready now, you aren’t going to like this one bit.

You can go to hell.

Let me say that again, so that you understand. I am not saying that someone who commits sins you don’t commit is going to hell. I’m not saying that Democrats, Republicans, abortionists, feminists, Pope Francis, the Jesuits, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are going to hell.

This is about YOU.

You, perfect as you are, can go to hell.

You can go to mass every week, toss big checks into the collection plate, participate in the walk for life and quote Canon Law like a religious F Lee Bailey. But if you do not care for the least of these, if you do not extend your hand to help suffering people, then you can go to hell.

Now, participating in pro life walks and donating to the Church with the intent of supporting Church missions that help the weak and poor (and there are many) is an indirect way to helping the least of these. That is true.

But the Pharisees that Jesus basically said were going to hell if they did not change were obsessively conscientious about doing the “right” things while they walked past suffering people on their way to the Temple. Probably worse than that, they condemned and shunned everyone who did not measure up to their remorseless rules; they even condemned Jesus for associating with “sinners.”

Don’t be like them. Don’t do the “right” thing in an angry condemnatory way. That can send you straight to hell.

How will we be judged when our life is over? Jesus said that we will be judged by how we treat other people.

He didn’t mention one word about sniping and carping over Canon Law. He didn’t say anything at all about voting right or loudly condemning people who commit sins that don’t tempt us. He said that we would be judged based on how we treat people who can’t fight back, how we minister to those in need, how we reach out to people who are on the fringes, who are judged by society to be dirty, lost, condemned.

Far from giving us leave to condemn those who differ from us, He said that we would be judged on whether or not we reach out to those who have been condemned, many of them justly so. That’s what it means when He said “I was in prison and you visited me.”

We can not leave one person alone, lost and despised.

That is a tall order. There is no one of us, including me, who can fulfill it. That is why we need a savior. Jesus didn’t just give us a new, impossible, set of commandments. He didn’t just show up and set the bar so high that no one could possible manage to get to heaven.

He came to give us a way out.

And that way out is the Cross. We enter into the New Covenant of love and salvation by way of the Cross. Jesus is the Way, and the Cross is the door.

We have a way out of our sins, and that is repentance and turning to follow Him with all our hearts. The Church offers confession to cleanse us, the Eucharist to feed us, and clear, simple teachings to guide us.

But the bottom line is that we are, each of us, rapidly speeding toward that moment when our personal end of time arrives and we stand before the Lord. And we will be judged according to the teachings I quote in this post.

I’m going to be writing quite a bit about basic things. This election and the lack of teaching from our religious leaders has destroyed the concept of pubic morality. It has placed all of politics and thus our national thinking, in a morality free zone.

We need to understand that this is an illusion. There is no morality free zone. There is only following Christ or following the devil.

From the National Catholic Register:

Our Holy Father spoke about the end times during his Angelus on the first Sunday of Advent. We all — believer and unbeliever — know that there will be an end. The end of all things rims our lives like a horizon all our days.

The truth is, we don’t need to worry overmuch about the ultimate “end times.” We are all rushing headlong to our own, personal “end time” every single day we live.

When we die, we will be at our own end of days, our end time. The things we have done will be writ and cannot be erased. This simple fact gives perspective to our here and now.

Pope Francis reminded us that the material things, what Wordsworth called “getting and spending” don’t matter all that much when we are forced to consider the ultimate toting up of our lives. When we stand before God, what will matter is the hour we spent visiting a lonely person in a nursing home, stood by a rape victim, helped an unwed mother find ways to keep her job or continue school during her pregnancy, or reached out in forgiveness to someone who had hurt us.

It won’t matter what kind of car we drove or if we got that big job. It certainly won’t help us on that day if we spent much of our time in this life doing things — even little things — that hurt and humiliated other people, or worst of all, drove them away from Jesus.

What will matter is whether or not we loved Jesus and other people. God is love, and our love, faith and hope are all that go with us into eternity. Those who love much are rich with the only lucre that saves, both now and in our ever after.

There are no foreigners, no rich and famous, no impoverished and unknown, no powerful and mighty, when we stand before the cross. We are all one nation, one family, of fallen souls, equal in our abject dependence on the broken Son of Man hanging there.

Here is what Jesus Himself told us about the Judgement we will face.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

That is Jesus Christ the Lord, God made human, telling us directly and explicitly how we will be judged when we stand before God.

I have three simple questions to ask you.

One: Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God?

Two: Do you believe that He said this?

Three: Do you believe He meant it?

If your answer to those three questions is yes, yes and yes, then there aren’t any more questions. You  know how you should live and what you should do.

 

 

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Book Review: Doing for the Least of These for Lent

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Lent in the legislature is always a problem.

The Lenten season falls at a time of year when the legislative calendar is so full that I feel like I’m being drug by a runaway horse. There’s not much time for more than going to mass and snatches of hurried prayer that don’t connect up to anything resembling a coherent Lenten practice. It’s all about tired, over-stimulated hanging in there. Lent gets washed away in all this busyness.

Every stopover at mass is a sudden downshift to a slower rhythm. It is so different from the break-neck pace of the rest of the day that it jars more than soothes. Prayers at night and in the morning require an act of will; otherwise I’ll daydream through the words as I say them.

My Lent has thus been more a time of confusion than spiritual and moral clarity. In fact, there have been a number of years when I decided that doing the best I could on my job in the face of whatever came was my Lent.

Reading Mercy in the City inspired me to be more intentional about how I do Lent in the legislature. The book’s author, Kerry Weber, is a twenty-something who decided to give up the usual sweets for Lent and then added a resolution to perform each of the Corporal Works of Mercy during Lent, as well.

The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy are:

  1. Feed the hungry.
  2. Give drink to the thirsty.
  3. Clothe the naked.
  4. Shelter the homeless.
  5. Visit the sick.
  6. Visit the imprisoned.
  7. Bury the dead.

That’s a tall order for a twenty-something with a full-time job and a dating life, but she managed to get it done. Her journey through the seven Works of Mercy is an illuminating read. Miss Weber learned a lot about other people as she handed out food, spent the night at a homeless shelter and visited with prisoners at San Quentin. Instead of just going through the list of Works and checking them off, she made an effort to learn from the people themselves, to see their humanity and their individuality.

This can be difficult. I’ve never done anything like this for Lent, but I have done some of these things at other times in my life. I can tell you that the sick throw up on you, the hungry gripe about the food you serve them and prisoners often go back to their old ways once they are free.

And yet, there is nothing in Jesus’ words equating Himself with these people that gives us the freedom of turning away from them. If you have done it for the least of these, you have done it for me, He says to us. There isn’t any wiggle room in that statement for an out based on the exterior ugliness of the people you are trying to help. I imagine there were First Century four-flushers and manipulators just as there are today. But Our Lord didn’t say a word about refusing to help people because they can be jerks.

He tells us that whatever we do for them in His name will not be lost. And whenever we turn our backs on the hungry, thirsty, sick, homeless, or imprisoned among us, we will be held accountable as if we had turned our backs on Him.

That’s a heavy kind of instruction. It should weigh on our hearts, and not just during Lent. We will be judged by how we treat the “least of these.” All our Amen-saying is for nothing if we don’t help those who can’t help themselves. More to the point, each and every one of us began life as someone who could not help themselves, and if we live long enough, we will be people who can’t help ourselves again. That is the human condition.

The pitiless among us want to solve these problems by killing those who need help. Just pick up the needle or use the vacuum aspirator and be done with them. But Jesus tells us clearly and without equivocation that we are called to something more than that.

The same God Who authored all life, tells us to honor life by caring for one another, especially when it’s not easy and it costs us something.

Mercy in the City is a well-written, entertaining look at one young woman’s attempt to do the seven Corporal Works of Mercy for Lent. If you read it, it will give a lot to think about and may inspire you to do the same thing yourself, which makes it excellent Lenten reading.

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