Wednesday, 18 August 2010


"Religion is for people afraid of going to hell, Spirituality is for those who have been there."

A recent article in the online religion section of the National Post about self professed atheist and author Christopher Hitchens leads to the age old question, so popular among many fundamentalist believers today, which asks' exactly who will go to heaven?'

In an attempt to respond to that question lets begin with a modern parable as told by master story teller Anthony de Mello, S.J.


An ancient Christian legend:

When the Son of God was nailed to the cross and died, he went straight down to hell from the cross and set free all the sinners who were there in torment.

And the devil wept and mourned, for he thought he would get no more sinners for hell.

Then God said to him, "Do not weep, for I shall send you all those who are self-righteous in their condemnation of sinners And hell shall be filled up once more until I return

It seems that there are many who would like to take over the role of judge and jury to decide who gets into heaven and who should be banished to an eternal hell. Any suggestion that perhaps everyone goes to heaven is quickly met with a great deal of opposition. "No, no, absolutely not, that would mean that we would have to share heaven with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein and a host of other evil individuals." Still others (sadly) presented several recent serial killers and emphatically stated that these individuals should not be allowed to even dirty heaven's doorstep.
Catholics should first take a great deal of solace from their Creed which states: 'On the third day [Jesus] descended to the dead' as a reminder that Jesus comes to be with us in hell! This would include those who rejected God because they were denied or never introduced to the real presence of God's unconditional love. (for more on this topic readers are invited to 'Good Goats - Healing Our Image of God' by the Linn family available at every online bookstore)
When we ignore God's love and become too focussed on the sinful behaviours of people it can be easy to make judgment. And if we're not carefull will fall into the trap of demanding justice based on revenge and punishment. When some arrogantly announce on behalf of God, who is going to heaven and who is not; they seem oblivious to their own self-righteousness. Surely such an attitude cannot be from an unconditionally loving God. Instead we have made an Ego based judgment withour realizing that God's Last Judgment has nothing to do with punishment! On the contrary it has everything to do with restoration. It has to do with restoring the love of God that you and I never received. And, it has everything to do with healing and compassion. Perhaps the real purpose of purgatory is to purge us from the many false images which we have projected onto the world, ourselves and others.

Without transformation we will continue to see the parable of the prodigal son with jaded eyes. Is it not easier to identify with the older son? Should the father not respond to the prodigal son with "well O.K. you can come back, but I think you should first apologize to me and your older brother, who has worked so hard, while you just wasted your inheritance, and . . . . . now go and clean out the pig-pen! Instead we know deep down that God the father like any good parent is always ready to love by forgiving and forgetting.

Fr. Anthony de Mello on Loves Forgetfulness

"Why do you keep talking about my past mistakes?" said the husband.

"I thought you had forgiven and forgotten."

"I have, indeed, forgiven and forgotten," said the wife. "But I want to make sure you don't forget that I have forgiven and forgotten."

Sinner: "Remember not my sins, O Lord!"

Lord: "What sins? You'll have to

prod my memory. I forgot them long ago."

Love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13).

When we become too focussed on sin and punishment, we often fail to understand what it means to love and be loved by our Creator. There are many among us who have never experienced God's love through their parent, sibling, teacher, neighbour and especially from members of our own religious institution. In the absence of such love we learn to hate, and condemn, become twisted, broken, sick etc.. Many people today have not experienced God's healing love. So how do we accept God's calling to become real lovers in this troubled world? Teresa of Avila said it this way:

"Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world."

Are there any among you who are prepared to cast the first stone at those that do not belong in heaven? Then first read Isaiah 43:25, Heb. 8:12, 10:17.

Finally, Origen Adamantius (185 – 254), a scholar and one of the greatest  theologians of early Christian interest in Alexandria, wrote that "In the end all will be saved, and the official Church condemned him.

NEW February 2012:  see also "Will Everyone Go To Heaven - part 2.

NEW May 30,2014

Resurrection is incarnation come to its logical and lull conclusion. It fully demonstrates that this world, this flesh, this physicality is part of the eternal truth and forever matters to God. Again, the early church seemed to get this much more than we do. Read, for example, St. Irenaeus and St. Athanasius in their classic texts from the second and fourth centuries.9 Resurrection is saying that matter and spirit have been working together from the first moment of the big bang. Resurrection is not a miracle to be proven; it is a manifestation of the wholeness that we are all meant to experience, even in this world-not time as "chronological moments of endless duration" but time as momentous and revealing the whole.` When "time comes to a fullness" (Mark 1:15) as in a moment of love, childbirth, union, peaceful death, or beauty, you have then experienced a moment of eternal life. Resurrection is when one moment reveals the meaning of all moments. Without such moments, it will either be very hard for you to imagine resurrection or, conversely, you will long for it like no one else, which is the concise meaning of the virtue of hope.
The Risen Christ is the standing icon of humanity in its final and full destiny. He is the pledge and guarantee of what God will do with all of our crucifixions. At last, we can meaningfully live with hope. It is no longer an absurd or tragic universe. Our hurts now become the home for our greatest hopes. Without such implanted hope, it is very hard not to be cynical, bitter, and tired by the second half of our lives.
It is no accident that Luke's Resurrection account in the Gospel has Jesus saying, "I am not a ghost! I have flesh and bones, as you can see" (24:39-41). To Thomas he says, "Put your finger in the wounds!" (John 20:27). In other words, "I am human!"—which means to be wounded and resurrected at the same time. He returns to his physical body, and yet he is now unlimited by space or time and is without any regret or recrimination -while still, ironically, carrying his wounds. (That they do not disappear is telling.) It was quite a feat to communicate this whole message in such a subtle and refined way, which is precisely the power of symbol. "Our wounds are our glory," as Lady Julian of Norwich puts it, is the utterly counterintuitive message of the risen Jesus.
The major point is that Jesus has not left the human sphere; he is revealing the goal, the fullness, and the purpose of humanity itself, which is "that we are able to share in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), even in this wounded and wounding world. Yes, resurrection is saying something about Jesus, but it is also saying a lot about us, which is even harder to believe. It is saying that we also are larger than life, Being Itself, and therefore made for something good, united, and beautiful. Our code word for that is heaven.

Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond – the Search for Our True Self, (2013). P 83-85

1 comment:

Fr. Tim Moyle said...
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