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    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Hell and denial

    Of the 2 homilies I heard this past Sunday, and the Pope's midday audience, only the Pope mentioned hell... not by name, but but allusion.

    For those who live in comfort, the Holy Father continued, the parable is a stern warning. "We cannot say that we do not know what is coming," he said, reminding his audience that the rich man of Luke's Gospel "ends in agony in the flames" because of his indifference to his poor neighbor.


    The other 2 local homily Priests were in a bit of denial about hell.. they did not mention it, but concentrated instead on the plight of the needy. One Priest pointing out that perhaps the rich man never really saw Lazarus because he was too busy in his comfort.

    The Jews that were hearing Jesus talking would have been amazed as usual by his words. Even today, Jews see the afterlife as nothing... no joy, no awareness, no anything. But Jesus painted quite a clear picture that they never heard before. Complete with awareness, flame, and a chasm between heaven and hell that can not be breached.

    What was it that sent the rich guy to hell? He seems to have arrived there by surprise.

    I would think he was in denial about denial. The Pope equates living in comfort with hell, and rightly so. The Jews thought living in comfort a direct and deserved blessing from God. Jesus says otherwise. From Luke 17:

    As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

    Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all.

    So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

    Today, even in Catholic circles it is most common to be encouraged to enjoy ourselves... that it is no crime to be human with human wants and desires. So that whatever we want must be natural. That it is no sin to be a man. God "don't make no junk".

    We share when we feel like it, and don't when we don't. Just like the rich man and Lazarus. But the Pope get's it right as usual. It is the living in comfort that is clear proof we are not sharing as required. It was enough proof to send the Rich Man to hell.

    How the Rich Man lived was not unlawful, but it was not Christian. Jesus did not merely refrain from sin, because he had no sin. He denied himself what was lawful and per his own advice, picked up his cross daily, and asked others to do the same.

    God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son. This giving was denial of God's comfort for our sake.. a real giving. And as in the Gospel acclamation Sunday, Jesus though he was rich for our sakes became poor. Again Jesus denying himself what was rightly his.

    The type of sharing we typically think of does not come close to what Jesus asks of us. This is why we know that his radical poverty made Francis a Saint. And our comforts make us something else.

    It's really not fair at all. That Rich Man didn't do much wrong. He ate and drank in comfort. For all we know, he was probably a nice guy and a good Jew.

    It's that little difference between fairness and justice. As the Pope says "earthly iniquity is overturned by divine justice,".

    That last judgement is going to be one hell of a scene.


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