you will be with me in Paradise.”
(St. Luke 23.43)
DEATH AND DYING
The Narrow Gate and the
REALLY Said about Dying
will hear these words today. Some have already heard them.
We ourselves may hear these words today.
give us pause — is that we may die today and NOT
hear these beautiful words spoken to us.
that this is terribly incorrect in contemporary theological
circles, and that it is ... well, anathema, to suggest
such a thing from the pulpit. It is ... somehow scandalous
to us, inappropriate, insensitive, incorrect.
The Jesus we are taught is
still – some 40 years later – something of a “Flowerchild”
and the Gospels an updated redaction of “Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Repair” – two phenomena of both fusion and
confusion, a mutilated and unsuccessful attempt at
fusing the East and the West morally, culturally, and spiritually
... resulting in a confusion of what is authentic to each. Today,
I suppose you would call it a “Remix” — a kind of syncopated
version of the Bible by “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
Nirvana came to Nineveh
... and somehow it has not yet left
makes it there ... at least eventually. Today we have re-christened
it “Heaven” ... once again ... but much of the baggage
that came to Nineveh remains on the steps. “All Dogs Go to Heaven”
— and so do all men. What you do, how you live your life, the
notion of authenticity in your relationship to Christ, and the
various impedimenta to Heaven detailed in Holy Scripture, are
largely beside the point.
“saved” ... with your dog.
is a given. It is a “right”. It is more than a right, it is
an eventuality, a certainty. After all, didn't Jesus Christ
pay the penalty for your sins and mine? The deal is done. Sit
back, enjoy the “good life” (which, by the way, is not Budweiser
and Broadway) and when the time comes — your time —
reap the benefits of His Passion. There is nothing you have
to do. Nothing you ought not do ... at least that will count
in the end.
more, you gave a beggar a dollar once, and the Church
$5.00 last year!
But I wonder
— and you should wonder — will we hear these
blessed words really spoken to us? Or will death come to us
in a thundering silence ... or worse.
surprise you, and will certainly make you uncomfortable, but
the fact remains that Jesus spoke much of Hell and our need
to avoid it at all costs. It is true. He makes reference to
it 70 times. It is mentioned 162 times in the New Testament.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate
is wide and the way is easy, that leads
to destruction, and those who enter by
it are many.
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard,
that leads to life, and those who find
it are few.”
(St. Matthew 7.13-14)
belabor the point. For all your efforts, you cannot reconcile
what Jesus tells you in the verse above, and what your priest
or pastor seems to assure you at the pulpit ... concerning
the terribly false certainty of Paradise for virtually
all who pass into death. It is not what Christ said.
What He said makes us nervous, and with good reason. Not everyone
goes to Heaven. In fact, Christ Himself tells us that those
who will find it are few. Not a very satisfactory state
of affairs ... is it? It could be worse: you could go on believing
that you can “do your own thing” — and not Christ’s — and still
expect to get to Heaven — until the day you die.
being lulled into a false security .... and you know it. What
is worse, you cease to pray for your dead in your mistaken assurance
that they are already there ... if they make it at all!
fear confronting Hell, we deny it — no matter what
Jesus says, no matter what He tells us. We will retain
those who will assure us of our salvation, and the salvation
of those we love — and we will flee or effectively fire those
who will not provide that assurance as a given.
Paying Hell to Stay
the Hell Away?
basket” as long as your pastor will give you the assurance that
Hell is not a place that you have to worry about ... and if
he does not give you that false assurance, take your money to
another parish where the priest will — as though you could purchase
Heaven itself! ... or pay Hell to stay the hell away ...
your pretenses, in the dark hours of the night and in the lonely
places of the world you are far less assured of hearing these
blessed words than your priest, pastor, or false friend is able
to convince you. In your heart you have heard stirrings in the
night and whispers you would that you had never heard.
Thief heard these words on the very cross — and you would
hear them on the comfort of your couch?
God loves you! He admonishes you! He ceaselessly
encourages you, persuades you, implores you!
— to that Paradise He has prepared for you —
and away from that Hell on which you
real. Jesus said so.
cost the thief his life, and a tremendous act of faith, before
he heard those words.
think that it will it cost less of you?
Geoffrey K. Mondello
Boston Catholic Journal
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