24 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MT 18:21-35
September 13, 2020

During a recent “online” conversation, a good friend of mine expressed his feelings that “no one deserves hell!”

I replied: Actually, at least at one….probably many times during our earthly lives) most of us DESERVE IT!

Unfortunately, this text exchange occurred just before bedtime, and had the same effect as if I had an entire pot of strong, black coffee before turning in.

In our First Reading, Sirach cautions:

Remember your last days.

I find that much easier to do now that I am in my 70’s, then I did when I was in my 20’s. And so I spent a few sleepless hours that night, “remembering”. But my thoughts fast forwarded past my “last days” to my very last moment….to my last breath.

In truth, I wasn’t suffering through a waking night mare. There was nothing terrifying about my thoughts. Actually, I was enjoying this particular bout of insomnia. My musings brought with them, a sense of wonder and awe….hope….even excitement about the prospect of that “inevitable LAST BREATH.“

I certainly have no desire to literally “fast forward” my time ….as St. Paul describes it...in the body.

Still, at least now, while that “inevitable LAST BREATH” lingers out there in the unforeseeable future, it doesn’t terrify me. I live toward it with a sense of hope….Christian hope.

At 1 Peter 3:15 we read:

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

My explanation for HOPE is inspired in no small way by our 2nd Reading which assures us:

…whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

As I tossed and turned, I REMEMBERED how one of my theology professors once theorized what that “inevitable LAST BREATH” will be like. Speculating what will happen as we stand before the Just Judge for personal judgement, she suggested that The Lord of the Living will ask us to make a choice: DO YOU WANT TO LIVE IN LOVE FOR ALL ETERNITY?

And then, according to this speculative theology….this spiritual theory, (it cannot be proven while we are “in the body”) The Lord of the Dead, will sneak behind us and whispers into the last bit of our free will….our God given right to choose for ourselves.…SAY YES! SAY YES! SAY YES!

Now if you think that this speculative theology…this unprovable spiritual theory, is too much to hope for, recall Jesus’s own words:

Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me (John 6:37).

Still, even as we draw that “inevitable LAST BREATH” we have free will….the ability to answer that question for ourselves. If we carry the dark burden of anger, grudges, hatred and the desire for revenge to that “inevitable LAST BREATH”….well….and mind you….this is speculative….just theory…..those feelings might prevent us from hearing the Loving Voice urging us to SAY YES! SAY YES! SAY YES!

It seems that for some, it will boil down to a choice between forgiving…so that they might be forgiven, or holding on to the grudges accumulated while “in the body” and suffering the consequences. In other words….in theory…“no one deserves hell!” ….except possibly those who wish it on others.

Let us pray:
“Oh my Jesus, forgive ALL OF us our sins, save ALL OF us from the fires of hell; lead ALL souls to heaven, ESPECIALLY those most in need of mercy.”

And remember to SAY YES! SAY YES! SAY YES! But why wait until that “inevitable LAST BREATH”? The more often we say YES! to God’s will and God’s ways…the more likely we will be to use our last conscious breath to accept God’s gracious invitation to live in love for all eternity.