Sunday, October 12, 2014
Will I Get To Heaven?
I notice that many of these reflections begin/are titled with a question. I guess that’s what triggers my thoughts, an anxiety or question about something. Often God then leads me to some conclusion, easing my anxiety --- but not this time.
I’ve reflected in the past on the question of “Am I doing enough with the blessings God has given me” --- re the parable of the talents. I’ve reflected on my actions, my priorities, and my prayer life --- am I doing enough in the eyes of God? I don’t think, however, I’ve reflected that often on how my actions are judged in the eyes of men --- and what I should think about their judgments or opinions, or their needs.
I think, whether I judge it wise or not, that I do highly value the opinions of men, and I want to justify myself to them when they voice their opinions on my actions. I greatly value God’s opinion also. I wish, however, that He would speak a bit more loudly of His opinion of my actions, because often when I try to discern His opinion I am confused.
In my Scripture readings this week, I reflected on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I think if you searched this blog, you’d see a number of reflections on this subject. I’ve considered the Prodigal Son’s viewpoint, the eldest son’s, the father’s, and even God’s viewpoint in this parable. This week, however, I was led to consider “The Rest of the Story” --- what might have happened next in this parable.
The Prodigal Son received an inheritance of money, and he blew it. I’ve discovered that many people are not good money managers in our society, which encourages borrowing and spending NOW, because: “You deserve it.” (No, you don’t, but let’s not travel that path right now.) The fact is that the Prodigal Son’s spend-it-now behavior was not that unusual. His father’s forgiveness of the son’s sin, however, was unusual, and a key lesson of the parable. We need to forgive, as God does, with love. But, I wondered, what happened in the parable after the now poor son returned home, and life went on?
If the sinner son were like most sinners, he fell again into the same sin. If his father later gave him an allowance, would the son have gambled it away, asked forgiveness --- again, and then asked the father for even more money? If the father titled half his land to the son, would someday someone knock on the father’s door and say: “You’re being evicted for non-payment of the mortgage your son took out on this property?” And if this son again begged forgiveness, would the father have let him live with him in an apartment, until one day the father returned home and discovered all the furniture gone, sold to cover the son’s debts? And when the son returns yet again and says “Father, forgive me,” what does the father do then?
I thought of the admonition to “forgive seventy times seven.” It has no qualifiers. I thought of confession, and how many times I have sinned and been forgiven. I thought of the punishment due my sins and perhaps the long stint in Purgatory which awaits me --- is that also the ultimate justice for the Prodigal Son? But what of the father? What are his appropriate actions, in the eyes of God?
If a beggar constantly knocks on your door begging money which he likely will blow on drugs, do you give him because he says he will use it for food --- which he needs? If you are a wife, bloodied and beaten, do you forgive your abusing husband who says “I’m sorry; it’ll never happen again.”? Do you give until you are broke, or forgive the beatings until you are dead?
This morning a friend looked at the tip I left on the table after breakfast. “The waitress must be happy the rich guy is leaving the tip today, so she doesn’t have to deal with the cheap couple of bucks I leave.” I tried to explain to him --- again --- why I think my action was just, but I don’t know if he is really criticizing me out of envy or guilt, or even compassion. And I know I’ll hear his comments again, as I’ve heard others.
The one who can’t manage money says I should give him more. The one who tries to manage his own money tightly tries to manage mine also, and says I should give less. And God says it’s hard for a rich man to get into heaven. Certainly, whether reading Scripture or listening to the advice of men, the pathway to heaven does not seem clear. Perhaps that is the definition of its narrowness.
I read in the book Divine Intimacy a meditation titled: “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” It says the peaceful man is guided by the Holy Spirit in his actions. I do pray for guidance ---- and perhaps that is the only clear thing to do in matters related to money, and finding the way to heaven. Pray and listen.
And relative to the men who constantly ask me for more, and those who ask me to give less --- I pray for them also, in the words Our Savior taught us: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
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The radio noted, this morning, the spread of Ebola in this country, and I reflected on this also. I may see my neighbor (and perhaps soon many of my neighbors!) dying, in dire need. How would I love him?
St. Peter Damien moved to live and care for those with leprosy --- for which there was no cure; he died for them. In early Church history, to admit being a Christian meant death, but if all Christians moved forward to admit being Christians and were killed, would there be Christianity today? How much do we love? How much do we give? Are those questions ones at the heart of the matter, asked at the fork in the road, to heaven or to hell? Obeying the letter of the law was what the people did who knocked on the door to heaven, and to whom Jesus said: “I do not know you.” The lesson of His life moved us beyond the letter of the law.
People who ask us for money who we know will waste it; people who make us angry; people who don’t seem to love us --- dealing with all these people triggers worries: worrying about our money, our righteousness, and our aloneness. It may be that the answer to these anxieties will be put into a proper perspective when Christians again face death. Will Ebola force us into facing right priorities, or at least into prayer? Maybe this terror is indeed an answer to our prayers.
We don’t seem to hear or consider other answers given to us by a God who loves us, and wants us to get to heaven. We so often only hear the answers we want to hear, and make the simple clear-cut decisions.
Will that get us there?