Archive for category Heaven and Hell

Matthew 22:34-40 The Greatest Commandment

There is a bible scholar who said, “The message of the Scripture from the first page to the very last is love”. Indeed love is the main message of Christianity, others are just commentaries. Apart from it no sacrifice, no offering, no worship, no conduct are holy, pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. Hence, the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. It is the foundation, center and the summit of Christian life.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself”  (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. “The commandment of love encompass all of the commandments of the Decalogue and fulfill them. All are contained in them, all follows from them, all strive toward them” (OR, June 1991). “Love is the greatest and the first of all the commandments and in it all the others are included and made one” (JP II Address to Youth). It is a resume and condensation of the fullness of the Law (Rm. 13:8, 10) that suffices. So it is that charity expresses all, contains all, crowns all.

Alan Watts writes, “One may master all the rules of conduct but fail to be a Christian for lack of love. Mere obedience to a law will never of itself produce love, because love is the very life of God and there is no system or set of rules whereby one can become its possessor” (Behold the Spirit). Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification” (LG 42).

I therefore, exhort you “love one another in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it” (see 1 Jn 3:18).  because when man is loved, St. Thomas says, God is loved, for man is the image of God (cf. “Commentary on St. Matthew”, 22:4) and an object of His love (cf. St. Vincent de Paul). Let us, therefore, renew our commitment to love God and one another not only with our words, not only with our promises, not only with our good intention but in truth and in deeds.

Do you want to go to hell? If you want to go to hell, just refuse to love, just neglect to love, just take love for granted and you will go to hell the easiest, the fastest and the surest way. Please don’t go the hell.

 

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Matthew 22:1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Feast

According to Jewish tradition, the resurrection of the just, and the subsequent setting up of the kingdom of God, was to be ushered in by a great festival in which all of the chosen people would participate. Hence their saying: ‘Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.’

What does it mean to “eat bread in the kingdom of heaven”? In the ancient world the most notable sign of favor and intimate friendship was the invitation to “share bread” at the dinner table or the table fellowship. Who you ate with showed who you valued and trusted as your friends.  One of the most beautiful images of heaven in the scriptures is the royal  wedding celebration and banquet given by the King for his son and close friends.

The gospel parable that we just heard is commonly known as the Parable of the Great Feast. Let us be reminded that in the Gospel Jesus usually uses parables to describe and explain the characteristics and mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven. Through this Parable the Lord remind us of God the Father’s invitation to the greatest banquet in heaven. Included and implied in this invitation are the following:

First, God wants all men and women to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and come to the fullness of knowledge of Jesus who is the Way, Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6).

Second, God wants His people to be happy with him in the kingdom of heaven.  This is also reiterated to us by the Church when she teaches, “To be in blessed and intimate communion with God is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human, a state of supreme and definitive happiness.”

Third, God wants His people to value and prioritize heaven over corporal, material and earthly things which may pass away.

It is frightening to note, however, that those who were not able to attend the great feast were not those who refused to come; they merely had other important things to do. They were simply more concerned and pre-occupied with corporal, material and temporal problems—for example, a piece of ground, a yoke of oxen, or a wife. As we look at the part possessions and relations play in this parable, we can see that there is great risk in them—risk that concern for temporal things may cloud our view of what is eternally important.

Do we see heaven as our ultimate goal? Are we really serious with our ultimate destiny? If yes, Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is a matter of urgency and top priority.  Mere words are not enough. Good intentions are not enough. Action is needed.  It demands our positive and concrete response here and now. It demands that we give everything to it. Else we would be shut out  forever from the Kingdom of heaven.

How many times does God call us to repentance, conversion, and new life only to be ignored because there are more pressing things to attend to?  How many times God continues to teach, sanctify and lead us through the Bible or through Church,  her ministers and sacraments only to be taken for granted because there are more important things to do?

In today’s Mass, let us once gain focus our attention to heaven which is our ultimate destiny and goal. As we journey towards our ultimate home, let us hate evil, hold on to what is good, true and pleasing to the Lord, then help building up and spreading the kingdom of God here on earth until it is perfected in heaven. As the Lord said: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).

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Luke 12:32-48 Dependence on God

Our God is not only an almighty (cf. Jer 27:5; 32:17; Lk 1:37; Wis 11:21; cf. Est 4:17b; Prov 21:1; Tob 13:2), merciful, gracious (Ex 34:5-6; cf. 34:9), truthful (Ps 119:160; 2 Sam 7:28; cf. Dt 7:9) and loving (cf. Dt 4:37; 7:8; 10:15; cf. Is 43:1-7; Hos 2; Jn 3:16; cf. Hos 11:1; Is 49:14-15; 62:4-5; Ez 16; Hos 11; Is 54:8,10; Jer 31:3) Father (2 Cor. 6:18); cf. Mt 6:32). He is also a God of freedom (” (Deut 30:19-20;  Mt 6:19  ).

Though God wills that all men may be saved and come to the fullness of truth (1 Tim 2:3-4), that is, Jesus Christ who is “the way, the truth and the life” (see Jn 16:1; 14:6), He always respect our freedom of choice. That is why we, as His people, are always given a choice to make: life or death, heaven or hell, peace or violence, sinfulness or righteousness and prosperity or misery.  Our future,  then, depends entirely on the quality and quantity of choices we make today. If we choose death, then death would be ours. If we choose heaven, then heaven would be ours. If we choose happiness, then hapiness would be ours. You are always given a choice but be responsible with that choice. What you are, who you are now and in the future are products of your own choices.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, God confronts His people with decisive moral choices: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deut 30:19-20).

In today’s gospel narrative Jesus also confront his disciples to make a choice.  Are you laying up for yourselves corruptible treasures or incorruptible treasures? Whatever option they shall make, Jesus warns them to avoid being preoccupied in acquiring, possessing and hoarding anything that moth can destroy , rust can eat away, thieves can break in and steal. Instead, he admonishes them to store up heavenly treasure which neither moths nor rust corrode nor thieves break in and steal (see Mt 6:19).

It is better to understand the text as referring to treasures that are already experienced in this life but continue to be valuable for eternity. “These are things whose fruit one enjoys in this world, while capital is laid up for one in the world to come: honoring father and mother, deeds of loving kindness, making peace between a man and his fellow; and the study of the law leads to them all” (cf. Sir 20:30, 41:14; see JBC 42:43).

Who stores for himself a treasure in heaven while on earth? He, who does not just perform good acts but gives the best of himself. He, who pursues good and chooses it in concrete action. He who freely practices the good. He who practices virtues…like prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope and love. He, who lives virtuous life, becomes like God (see St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinis, 1: PG 44, 1200D).  This is the reason why “people, in seeing our good works, give glory to God our Father who is in heaven (see Mt 5:16). Hence,  “fill your minds with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious. Do everything that deserves praise and admiration” (Ph 4:8).

Jesus, then, exhort his disciples to possess a good eye and a good heart. Or singleness of purpose, purity of heart (Mt 5:8), undivided loyalty. What, then, is our goal that deserves our singleness of purpose and purity of heart? To whom shall we pledge our undivided loyalty?  The longing and  desire for heaven  or the single indestructible longing for God, for an eternity spent in intimate, blessed communion with him is the deepest desire of human heart. Heaven is “the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024). These deserve our singleness of purpose, purity of heart and undivided loyalty!

God has granted us an amazing freedom to determine our eternal (and earthly) destiny by our choices and actions. To use the beautiful expressions of St Paul:  “A man will reap only what he sows” (Gal 6:7). “He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). The option will always be ours. But we are forever responsible of the choices we make. As the Pepsi advertisement aptly says: “You are the product of your own choices.”

My dear friends in today’s gospel the Lord is giving us a choice. Are you laying up for yourselves corruptible treasures or incorruptible treasures? Make a choice for a lifetime. Store up heavenly treasure which neither moths nor rust corrode nor thieves break in and steal (see Mt 6:19).

 

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Mt 13:44-52 Treasures New and Old

 The Parable of the Net has close similiarity with the two earlier parables, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Weed.

The Parable of the Net is closely similar to the Parable of the Mustard Seed in the sense that it describes the Kingdom of God as universal in scope and in nature. Hence, based on these two parables, the Kingdom of God here on earth is intended to accept men and women of all generations and of all nations and that include both the wicked and the righteous, the saint and the sinner, the good and the bad. In connection with this what is the challenge for us? To adopt an open, non discriminating and non judgmental and freewheeling approach to evangelization. A major problem which we will be encountering with this approach however would be: both the undesirables and desirables will enter and mixed in the Church. Some undesirables will be converted…Some undesirables who seemed promising in the beginning will betray God in the end. God does not make us responsible for this. But let us always be reminded to withold our judgment for judgment belongs, not to the disciples, but to God. This parable, however, is not a call to overlook grievous sin.  A few chapters hence, Jesus will establish procedures for reproving sinners and for excommunicating them if they fail to mend their ways (Mt 18:15-20).

The Parable of the Net is closely similar to the Parable of the Weed in the sense that these parable recognize the fact that the the Kingdom of God here on earth is composed of both sinners and saints. We cannot perfectly separate the two and eliminate the oter while the Kingdom of God is still on earth. Otherwise we will destroy the good together with the bad. We will uproot the weed while uprooting the weed whose roots were already entwined with the wheat. But when the day of the Final Judgment comes, the good and the bad will be totally and perfectly separated like what the fishermen did in the Parable. After having scooped up all sorts fish, both the good and bad the fishermen sorted their catch and discarded the unwanted or the usable fish.

Whether we like it or not the day of the final judgment will come. Matthew never tires in warning his readers of the reality of judgment and hence the importance of genuine discipleship.  It is a warning that both the world and the Church need” (Hagner).When that day comes the good and bad will finally and perfectly be separated. The wicked goes directly to hell to be punished eternally while the righteous will be rewarded in heaven and they “will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (Mt 13:43).

“Mention of the final judgment reminds the hearers and readers of the parables that discipleship is not a game of ‘let’s pretend’; it is a matter of life and death” (Brueggemann, 424). The reality of the final judgment once again remind us that following Jesus is not a game of “let’s pretend.,” it is a matter of life and death, it is a matter of salvation and damnation, it is a matter of happiness and misery. Choose life and lasting happiness with God and with our loved ones in heaven.

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Luke 14:25-33 Costs of Discipleship

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “To be in blessed and intimate communion with God is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human heart, a state of supreme and definitive happiness.” Heaven is the ultimate goal of human existence. It is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of every human being. Why? With God everything is sufficient. With God nothing is lacking. This is what we hope for. This is what we pray for. This is what we strive for.

In the letter of St. Paul to Timothy  there it is revealed to us that God wants all men and women to be saved and come to the fullness of truth (1 Tim 2:4): Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through him (Jn 14:6).  Yes God wants all men and women of all nations and generations to be happy with him in heaven. Yes we desire to be happy with God in heaven. Yet there is always something that prevents or hinders us from reaching our goal or fulfilling the deepest longing of our inmost being/

What is it that prevents or blocks us from following Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life? These are:  social and familial relations, lack of perseverance and wealth and possessions.

In order to be happy with God in heaven, believing is not enough. Following the Lord is not enough. To be true disciple of Jesus is necessary. A disciple not on our own terms and conditions. A disciple not on our standard or measure. A disciple not on our qualification and merit. But a disciple based on the grace, measure and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ who is our Lord, Savior and Teacher.

Considering the Gospel as a whole we can somehow conclude that a true disciple of Jesus possesses a combination of three traits: singleness of purpose, undivided heart, and persevering spirit.

Singleness of purpose requires of us that whatever happens our ultimate purpose in life is to be happy with God in  heaven. St. Paul reminds us that our ultimate destiny is heaven and our ultimate goal is to be happy with God. Therefore let us always guard ourselves against the danger of overindulging in worldly pleasure like drugs, alcohol, sex and food and not to be more preoccupied with worldly, material physical and sexual concerns. Else we will be tempted, misled, deceived, lost and enslaved by them.

Undivided heart requires of us that we will follow, love and serve the Lord wholeheartedly, freely and generously. Undivided heart reminds us that God wants His people to value and prioritize heaven over corporal, material and earthly things which may pass away. The moment we decided to follow the Lord that is also the moment  that our loyalty, obedience and faithfulness to God must be unparalleled. Therefore, when it comes to priorities in life and hierarchy of values God takes precedence over our relations and possession, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is,” says the Lord.

Persevering spirit means that we will never give in to temptation and sins. It also means that we will never give up our faith, conviction, ideals, values in life even under the pressure of money, power, popularity and  pleasure. Lastly, persevering spirit means that we will not quit what we have started even in the face of trials, hardships and persecution. Gen. Douglas McArthur once said, “Old age wrinkles the body, quitting wrinkles the soul.”

In today’s Mass let us be reminded that we are only pilgrims here on earth. Heaven is our homeland. To be completely and perfectly happy with God in heaven is our inmost longing, Have a singleness of purpose. Love and serve the Lord with undivided heart. Persevere in faith, hope and love.

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Lk 16:19-31 The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

There is a popular misunderstanding about money or riches as the source of all evils. Because of this we tend to believe that the rich is bad and the poor is good. The rich is cursed and the poor is blessed. The rich is destined to hell while the poor to heaven. Hence, at all costs and by all means, money or wealth is to be avoided and stay economically poor and miserable as much as possible.

This appears to be a good news,  a consolation and hope to the poor. But this is not what the Gospel‘s parable teaches us today. Money in itself is not evil and does not make us evil. Rather it is the love of money that is the source of all evils. It is our selfishness, insensitivity, and inhumanity that are the sources of evil and make us bad. It is our being unfaithful, irresponsible and unfruitful stewards and failure to be “merciful just as our Father is merciful” (see Lk 6:36) that make us undeserving to receive the eternal life and happiness in heaven promised by God those who love Him and his people.

The moral lesson is this. Any person  (or rich) who distances himself  from the poor (Lazarus) in this life he will find himself in great torment and in a far distance from the poor who at the side of Abraham enjoying eternal bliss in the next life. And he will be prevented from joining them by great chasm made permanent by God. It is not God who condemns us to hell; it is we who condemn ourselves through a life of selfishness, insensitivity and inhumanity to the poor around us.

The parables asks : Will the five brothers, the readers as well the listeners follow the example of the rich man or heed Jesus’ teaching and that of the OT about care of the needy like Lazarus and thus be children of Abraham. If the brothers, the readers and the listeners do not follow that teaching, they will not have a place at the messianic banquet. Mere words do not make one a child of Abraham and therefore a member of reconstituted Israel. (see JBC 43:151:27) “Dives’ claim that Abraham is his father is of no effect, for he has not produced the deeds of loving kindness that would have signified repentance from his self-centered callous way of life (G. W. E. Nickelsburg, NTS 25 [1978-79] 338).

“My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience, so that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct you may learn to value the things that really matter” (Phil 1:9-10).

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