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The Third Rail
and
the Kingdom of Heaven

The Third Rail and the Kingdom of Heaven

HARD SAYINGS


 

There are many … “hard sayings” … in Holy Scripture.

That is to say, there are many passages, parables, and other vital teachings of Christ and Holy Mother Church that, if we heard them from the pulpit in Church — and we don’t — we would rather not hear.

We will get into some, and we promise you that your modern, perverse, and effete social sensitivities — together with your State-mandated and carefully crafted (that is to say, “educationally endorsed” and brutally indoctrinated social correctitude — will be deeply offended, even scandalized, and you will be outraged that the Church and her God so much as uttered them — even made them obligatory!

Following John XXIII’s infamous “aggiornamento”, or “bringing up to date” what had never been outdated —  the Catholic Church, following Vatican II, largely expunged concepts, doctrines, and even dogma deemed “offensive” to the non-Catholic World, from Catholic teaching — and while these core beliefs are clearly and repeatedly indited in Holy Scripture, Patristics, and the Sacred Deposit of Faith, you will never hear reference to them: not at Mass, not in any homily, not in CCD or Religious Education, not in Catholic seminaries, and certainly not from the new Vatican appended with a “II”.

Vatican II muzzled God — and instead of His untainted Word, gave us a “revisionist”, sanitized, and vastly-abridged rendition of the Bible more aligned with the prevailing values of “the World” which ever hated Christ and those who followed Him (
“If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated Me before you.” (Saint John 15.18). This is not to say that such “hard” and displeasing verses no longer exist in the Catholic Bible, only that they are never appealed to or so much as mentioned in any contemporary Catholic religious discourse, either at the pulpit or the seminary.

Order of Battle

In the Book of Job we are reminded that The life of man upon earth is a warfare (Job 7.1) Holy Mother Church understood this from the beginning, and testimony to this enmity between the World and God is inscribed the in the blood of the Martyrs. Holy Mother Church ever reminded us of this perpetual Order of Battle and the array of our enemies: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

But that is not taught anymore either.

When it was taught, it is notable that the “World” came first (ideologies, social remedies, cultures, inculturation, multi-culturalism, science, theories, politics, parties, public policies, gender theories, hyper-egalitarianism, sexual fluidity …). It was the logically necessary antagonist to which the Church first succumbed. Once the “Windows of the Church were thrown open” (John XXIII) to the World, the miasma of the World flowed in while the Faithful and the Religious flowed out.

After “the World” subverted the Church, the second onslaught quickly followed: “The Flesh” — “Free Love” … the mantra of the “groovy” 60’s and 70’s which ushered in abortion, STDs, drugs, derangement, “tune in, turn, on, and drop out”, hippies and “acid” — leaving ravaged bodies and minds as so many tatters of a concept once deemed a “Person” made in the image of God.

How “devishly” clever it was, as though following some diabolically Hegelian dialectic (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) — which brings us to the third point and our third nemesis: “the Devil” — who, of course, has never left, and who fanned the flames of the accumulating madness that ensued — and now may even be wearing pontificals in Rome.
 

Like Hell (his abode — to which no one goes after Vatican II), he does not exist anymore either. As it has been often stated, his greatest achievement is his convincing us that he does not exist (of course with the help of the academic “periti” and non-Catholics who advised and directed the apparently stultified Council fathers). If satan does not exist, eo ipso, Hell is a fiction, too. Fictions are, in fact, routinely homilized at Mass (“Jesus loves you just the way you are.”) — but not these fictions. Why speak of what does not exist and which, therefore, has no influence upon you, let alone an eschatological bearing.

How to Recognize 600 Volt Homilies at once:

  • They do not assure us of our salvation

  • They do not canonize us before we are dead. The question of our trajectory and to what eternal habitation still remains open

  • The devil exists and lusts after your soul and will do anything and everything to see you rot in Hell with him

  • Hell exists and people go there

  • Mortal Sin is real and many people are guilty of it. It is the death of the soul to God. If you die in the state of Mortal Sin, you will go to Hell.

  • Holy Confession is the ordinary and necessary Sacrament for the remission of your sins.

A “third-rail” homily would begin with, let us say, Saint Paul’s address to the Philippians: “With fear and trembling work out your salvation” 1 — to mention nothing of the numerous admonitions from our Blessed Lord that do not merely “suggest”, but clearly warn us in no uncertain terms of eschatological realities like Hell that we may find both appalling and unacceptable — while being undeniably true.

Why do I call such Homilies and Biblical verses “Third Rail”?

Simple: touch upon them and you are, as a pastor or priest, dead. Speak of them and you will receive a call from your bishop to “tone down the rhetoric” and subsequently restore the cash flow. It is almost as deadly for the Catholic laity who, understanding them to be part of the canon of Sacred Scripture (which they, the few, have actually read) understand them as realities, and in turn are understood by their peers as (to use the term of Francis) “rigid”, backward, traditional, pre-Vatican II Catholics more attuned to the truth than Pachamama and “the environment. 

“Third Rail verses” in Holy Scripture, in short, are verses to be avoided at all costs: they are fatal to the one touching upon them much as the third rail in an American subway system exceeds 600 volts and, if you simply touch upon it, will instantly electrocute you. Such verses, of course, precede Third-Rail Homilies — to be avoided for the same reasons.


Three of the Four Last Things

Death, Judgment, and Hell (… but not Heaven).

Few wish to hear of the first three. Your pastor knows this. To preach about or to dwell upon such verses is likely to cause “discomfort” — indignation and perhaps even “outrage” within — and consequently diminish — the congregation. They will go elsewhere, and find another parish and another priest who will assure them of their salvation (despite what Christ says), their invincible goodness, and their being “The lights of the world” and “The salt of the earth”. Such parishes and priests, of course, abound.

“Not Open”

Any hint that Heaven may be closed to some, if not many, is mocked as “pre-Vatican II nonsense” — in spite of Christ’s telling us so:

“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 … [and] the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Saint Matthew 7.13-14)

This is but one of many, many, third-rail verses found in all four Gospels and most of the Epistles (Letters).

“Surely”, we console ourselves, “a good, merciful, and forgiving God would not allow such things to happen!”

To which we reply:

Why, then, did He say them?

We do not seek God, but a heaven with a god to our liking and made in our image. This is another way of saying “We ourselves will be our own gods for we are more merciful, more loving, more forgiving, more just, than the God we find in Sacred Scripture. We will not bend our knee before that God, but our own god: ourselves! We will find or make priests and churches that “affirm us”, comfort us, and tell us that our illusions are realities or that reality is just an illusion.

This is further to say that we will continue to maintain the illusions and fabrications that comfort us, but cannot possibly save us — rather than defer to “hard sayings” which are enunciated to the end of saving us and bringing us to genuine happiness (Heaven).

Other factors enter into this obstinate refusal to accept the “hard sayings”, and we point to them with the deepest sorrow: these “hard sayings” do not simply involve us — they involve those we have loved — who have died.

Some of them, perhaps most of them did not accept these “hard sayings” either. Some of them led extraordinarily sinful lives, heedless of God and man. Some were little more than evil. Many simply did not believe, or would not relinquish what they perceived to be their freedom to do as they wish, or simply scorned religion altogether. But we loved them — and love always invests us in the being of another. Hence our pain.

All or None

Nevertheless, a choice was placed before them, as it is placed before us now: to accept the “hard sayings” as earnestly as we accept the more comforting ones. We cannot choose which teachings of Christ we will accept any more than we can choose what we wish to be real or true. We must accept all of them or none of them. God does not tamper with our freedom, nor interfere with our choices. We are free to accept or reject, but in either case our choice is total. We cannot accept or reject the part without accepting or rejecting the whole, for the parts are integral constituents of the whole.

Much more to the point, the terms are not of our own making — they have been divinely instituted. Salvation is not a referendum any more than Heaven is a democracy. The means of attaining it have been clearly defined by Christ — as well as the means of losing it. The choice is yours alone.

“Lest they also come into this place of torments”

To return to the discussion of those we love and who have died, here we encounter the most painful legacy imaginable: our realization that the road they chose was the one that was “broad and easy” … To imagine them in torment everlasting is beyond our ability to comprehend without verging on despair.

“How wicked of you”, you tell me, “to compound the grief of those in bereavement! Have they not suffered enough by the loss of one loved?”

No. It is not wicked. It is painful beyond words. It is sorrowful beyond description. None of us may presume salvation, for to do so is to presume upon God’s mercy, itself a mortal sin! Indeed, I identify more with the departed than the surviving. I have no assurance of salvation, for I refuse to presume on God’s mercy and may yet myself be accounted among the lost — even as Saint Paul himself feared. (1 Corinthians 9.26)

Should I fear less?

There are indeed those who go to Hell — and likely many (or Christ is a liar). We must allow this realization to motivate us with all the more urgency to bring those still with us to Christ, lest they, too, choose “the road that is broad and easy” and add to our sorrow even greater sorrow still.

This was the whole point of the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man: the rich man in Hell implores Abraham
“send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torments.” (Saint Luke 16. 27-28)

Can we do less?

We call our children out of a burning house — we will suffer burns ourselves and incredible pain to save them — but when they verge on a Lake of Fire that is the Second Death 1 from which there is no return ... we say, we do, nothing. We do not call them back. We do not rush in horror to bring them back! Why? How is this possible?

So much for our own convictions; for the measure of our own faith!

Now we come to it: the painful recognition that our love for them is not greater than our fear of the frowning face of  “the World” ... that no longer has any room for God ... or His children.

Say it is not so!

Pay attention to the third rail! Ignore it at your peril.

This applies equally to priest and pew alike.

If you would smugly choose your “comfort zone” as a Catholic, you would do well to consider ... well, its location as well as its “duration”.

 

Geoffrey K. Mondello
Editor
Boston Catholic Journal

 

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1   Apocalypse 19-20

 

 

 

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Scio opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti verbum Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum 
I know your works ... that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My Name. (Apocalypse 3.8)

 

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