Luke 16: 19-31 A Great Chasm
Heaven is like a beautiful city where the trains are German, the cooks are French, the artists are Italian, the hosts are Mexican, and the police are British. Hell is like a city where the trains are Italian, the cooks are German, the artists are British, the hosts are French, and the police are Mexican.
There could be no greater separation, no wider divide than the one that exists between Heaven and Hell; eternal life with God and eternal life without God. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” The earthly city is an image and reflection of the Divine City. When a city is created, laid out and carefully planned, the last thing the designer wants is a prison. But as time goes by paradise is lost. A crime occurs – a theft, a murder – the end of paradise. A man must be separated from the rest. There is an image of Hell on earth which most people never think about: prison. Where the criminal must pay for his crime, and sometimes pay for the rest of his life – isolated, alone and confined. In a recent poll, many Americans believe in Heaven; few believe in Hell. But opinion polls will never change the truth of what is and what is to come. The philosopher Karl Marx wrote, “Religion is the opium of the masses.” He considered it an escape for those who suffer and for those who perpetuate suffering. Religion must be done away with so that true justice, achieved by revolution, can take its place. Today, the opium of religion has been replaced with new opium: Atheism. That is the belief that there is no Heaven or Hell; you can do whatever you want with no fear of judgment or condemnation. Live your life better than you can!
It is remarkable how children can understand the justice of Hell better than adults can. I still remember, as a child, a comment made from of one of our volunteer CCD teachers that “everyone goes to Heaven.” Of course, the logic back then was, “they are children; we cannot scare them with the reality of Hell, what would that do to their self-esteem, self-confidence and creativity?” I think it would save a lot of lives in our schools today. Maybe the killers would think twice before entering and shooting. My childish mind worked in a frenzy trying to understand the consequences of this statement. I was enlightened by the prospect that I could steal, cheat, hurt others and lie about it and not have anything to worry about. After all, we all go to Heaven. Adolf Hitler and Mother Theresa are in the same place today: Heaven or Nowhere. It is hard to say, but I believe that was the beginning of the end of my religious convictions and it all started with an innocent comment, made from volunteer “god” during religious instruction.
Hell exists! And I really believe that it is hard to go to Hell. I mean, you really have to work hard at it. You have to give it your all! Till the last second of your life. This is the tragic life of that unknown thief nailed next to Christ who refused to commend his spirit to the Lord. Hell is an embarrassment for God. He doesn’t like to talk about it much. He’s embarrassed about it, almost ashamed to admit it. He cannot stand it. Can you blame him? It is very embarrassing that souls would prefer darkness to light, hatred to joy, resentment to forgiveness, indifference to love, bread and water to eternal feasts; loneliness to His Presence.
There is Divine Justice. There are consequences to my actions: good and bad. A person with a merciful heart will go to Heaven. A person who does not judge others will not be judged. If I am afraid of judgment, then I still need to be judged. Holy people have so much mercy. They know they are incredible sinners and they offer themselves for the salvation of others. We should always say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” Begin it now, so as to not live in judgment later. Better to go to Christ as my Savior, then to appear before him as my judge!
St. Paul tells us to “Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1Tm 6:11-16) Just like Christ, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession. What is this noble confession? It is his declaration to the world. When asked by the Procurator if he was a King, the Lord responded, “I AM”. When a Christian is asked, who is your king? The response should always be “Christ Jesus is my King!” Remember, the worst thing that can happen to you is not that you die, but that you die on the wrong side!
Christ, who was rich, became poor so that we could be rich in the things that lift us up and poor in the things that entrap our hearts. The Lord cannot be replaced by possessions. Let us ask the Lord our God for the grace to be rich in the things that matter, so that he may lift us up to eternal life; and poor in our possessions that continue to weigh us down and nail us to this world.