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Life is Short; Eternal Life on the Other Hand . . .


“No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

In today’s 1st Reading (Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9), we look in on Moses during the latter stages of his life doing what we does rather often throughout scripture; safeguarding the legacy and integrity of God’s Commandments. Just a few weeks ago as a matter of fact we found him engaged in similar discourse Today’s message however takes on more of a generational tone, as Moses implores the Israelites to “take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and your children’s children.” (4:9).

This particular group of Israelites experienced both the oppression and hopelessness of enslavement as well as the potential for perpetual prosperity in the Promised Land. A life rooted in the Commandments, Moses explains, would insure plenteousness and freedom. Dissolute lives steeped in vice and immorality however would guarantee quite the opposite. Tomorrow we will read a similar passage (Jeremiah 7:23), one wherein the Lord implores his people to “Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and I shall be your people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper.” Friday’s 1st Reading too (Hosea 14:2-10) will echo similar sentiments, as we’re left with these words to ponder in the latter stages of the text: “Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.

Moses and the Israelites indeed stumbled. And grumbled for that matter, most famously in Exodus 17:1-7, but elsewhere as well (Numbers 14:2, Exodus 15:24 and 16:2) as they endured the desert wilderness for 40 years. The Israelites as a people were enslaved in Egypt for an excruciating 430 years. I get impatient if I have to wait 48 hours for lab results or for the outcome of a job interview. Yet despite all of Israel’s trials and tribulations, it was a relatively short time versus the prospect of assuming full possession of the land of their inheritance for hundreds if not thousands of years.

For those who are genuine and conscientious disciples of Jesus, Heaven is the new Promised Land. Life here on earth is short, even for the most aged among us, pushing the boundaries of 85, 95 or even 100+ years. Death on the other hand, it’s consequence at least, is far longer. For those who abide by the commandments, particularly the greatest of the commandments as we will read in tomorrow’s Gospel (Mark 28-24), an unimaginable paradise awaits. That which No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined,” as Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, is undoubtedly “what God has prepared for those who love him.”

On the topic of Heaven, I found the following remarks by Saint Gregory the Great particularly fascinating. As he was reflecting on the supernatural unity between the entire Communion of Saints in Heaven and their seemingly infinite knowledge, he remarked “They know not only them with whom they were acquainted in this world, but also those whom before they never saw, and converse with them in such familiar sort as though in times past they had seen and known one another: and therefore when they shall see the ancient fathers in that place of perpetual bliss, they shall then know them by sight, whom always they knew in their lives and conversation. For seeing they do in that place with unspeakable brightness, common to all, behold God, what is there that they know not, that know him who knoweth all things?” Of Heaven, Saint Bernadette Soubirous once said “My crown in heaven should shine with innocence and its flowers should be radiant as the sun. Sacrifices are the flowers Jesus and Mary chose.”

Although it is true that we should abide by the Commandments out of obedience as well as our love for God and neighbor, a desire to one day reach Heaven should also play a large part in our motivation. The Commandments can at times seem burdensome or even enslaving. Satan has certainly gone so far as to trick us into thinking so. Of course the evil one goes even farther than that, doing his nefarious best to convince us that he does not even exist. The secular world, to its enormous and at times diabolical discredit, has offered the Prince of Darkness far too much assistance in this department, assistance that he certainly does not need. Even a handful of Priests have come out in recent years and claimed that hell is a contrived and fictitious place, a well-conjured scare tactic used by the hierarchy of the church in order to control the masses, this despite the fact that Jesus speaks of hell oftentimes throughout Scripture. For it is in these sacred texts that the Son of Man warns against this place of eternal torment (Luke 16:23), of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), where the worm does not die (Mark 9:48) and where people will gnash their teeth in anguish and regret (Matthew 13:42) from which there is no return, even to warn loved ones (Luke 16:19–31). He calls hell a place of “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), going so far as to compare it to Gehenna (Matthew 10:28), which was for all intents and purposes a glorified trash dump outside the walls of Jerusalem where refuse was burned and maggots abounded. Jesus in fact talks about hell more often than he talks about heaven, and describes it far, far more vividly. There’s no denying that Jesus knew, believed, and warned against the absolute reality of hell.

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In a recent apparition from Medjogorje, our Lady discussed heaven, hell and purgatory with the noted and renowned visionary Marija. Heaven, according to Marija, is a “huge place of great lights, beauty, and immense joy. Meadows, mountains, hills, beautiful countrysides are all present; people possess an inner light, a serene joy radiates from their presence.” “Purgatory,” she goes on to explain, “is a very sad and chilling place.“ she went on to further describe it as a “misty area with gray fog through which people could be heard trembling, weeping, moaning,” and where an “extreme loneliness permeates the sadness of the atmosphere.” She then went into graphic detail about hell. “Hell is even more disturbing,” she concludes going into lurid detail about the pitied souls on hand who “are enraged, cursing, ugly, occupied with unending anger. They enter the torturous fires naked and come out horrific, no longer in human shape, in vastly darkened, blackened skin.”

Regardless of whether these revelations from Medjogorje scare the hell out of you or scare you out of hell, the prophets were sent to remind us that we are merely sojourners in this world, on a journey to the Father’s House. Decisions must be made with our eternal fate in mind, always weighing the consequences of our every action so that we can indeed complete this journey safely, while arriving at the desired destination. God loves his children far too much to leave them to their own devices or unprotected against the wolves in their midst

The Commandments are our gift from God to insure that desired destination. To quote author Colin Smith, “The God you worship will shape the values you hold, and the values you hold will shape the lifestyle that you choose.” Choose eternal life. Because eternity is a lot of things, but short is not one of them.

If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways, I would feed them with the best of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would fill them.” ~ Psalm 81:17

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