you will be with me in Paradise.”
DEATH AND DYING
The Narrow Gate and the
REALLY Said about Dying
will hear these words today. Some have already heard them.
may hear these words today.
What should give us pause
— is that we may die today and NOT
hear these beautiful words spoken to us.
I know 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,
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
Everyone 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
You are “saved” ... with
Heaven 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.
What is 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.
This may 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.”
I won’t 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.
You are 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!
In our 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?
“Pass the 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 ...
For all 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.
The Good Thief heard these
words on the very cross — and you would hear them on
the comfort of your couch?
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
Both are real. Jesus said
It would cost the thief
his life, and a tremendous act of faith, before he heard those
Do you think that it will
it cost less of you?
Boston Catholic Journal
Comments? Write us:
Printable PDF Version