The Young Man at the Tomb Holding Fast to Each Other Amen to What We Are The Lord, Our Justice Claiming Our True Name What We Expect The Comma Keeping the Demons Quiet The Dove in the Heavens Thankfulness and Generosity Speaking to Jesus A Promise to Simeon and Us A Sign for You The Voice in the Wilderness How Annunciations Work The Least, the Lost, and the Last Waiting for Christ’s Return Attire for the Kingdom The Cross in a Violent World Come to the Banquet Today Anointing of the Sick Finding the Eternal Change and Continuity Paying Attention The First and the Last Using Bad Consequences How to Talk to God Ready to Forgive Facing the Serpent Priority and Mutuality Three Meals a Day Searching for Pearls The Power of Service Why Walk on Water? The Day Jesus Was Wrong The Promise of the New Name The Two Feet of Love Facing the Hour Looking Backwards Touching the Leper Touching the Leper Misunderstanding God Doing It Poorly God’s Midwife A Name for the Holy Spirit The Coffin So We Do Not Have to Touch Being Better to Each Other Earthquakes and Galilee Lazarus as a Disciple Seeing More Learning from Peter Imitating God’s Holiness Weekly Bulletin 3/2/14 Imitating God’s Holiness Weekly Bulletin 3/9/14 Choosing a Master Goodness in Temptation A Pinch of Salt Teaching the Commandments The Freedom of the Baptist Christ’s Broken Body Faith Is More than Looking The Twelve Days of Christmas God’s Timing Resurrection and Transformation The Good That Is Gone Zacchaeus Moments God in the Smallest Things Trust and Community When God’s Commands Do Not Fit The Faith of Honeybees Choosing Hell Following the Dishonest Steward The Ninety-Nine The Freedom to Let Go Beyond Politics The Balance of Humility Not Fearing Fire The Beauty Remains To Welcome as a Samaritan A Moveable Peace Bring On the Women! The Two Sides of Bread Waiting for the Ticket The Groove of the Spirit Jesus Is Not Like Congress A Divine Partnership What Kind of Love Is This? Boston Bombings and God Fishing and Forgiveness A New Kind of Joy Letting Christ Out The Sign of Inversion Our Doodling God A Parable of Love and Jealousy Not Enough Time The Ordinary and the Transcendent The Battle with the Devil God Is Not Kidding The Power of Love We Are the Body of Christ The Arc of Life Waiting for the Final Gift Displacement at Christmas Incarnating God Presenting the Mess Red Cake and Lima Beans A Call to Serve Beyond Asking Jesus’ Commandment Being Ready to Take God in the Foxhole God Is Still Working Adjusting What Is Necessary Learning from the Prophet Amos About Jesus’ Brothers The Most Popular Miracle The Importance of Hunger Eternal Life Influencing Others Finding the Right Proportion Do What You Love Stopping for the Least To Love Irritating People Marriage, Divorce, and Children Asking for More Drinking the Cup Terror in Paris God Will Come Boundaries, Security, and Generosity Feeling Movements of Life A Place to Learn God Uses Small Things Signs of Life When God Says No Christian Optimism From Transition to Call The Long Struggle The Gate of Heaven Common Sense or Hope The Spoiled Son An Oasis for Everyone Jesus’ Last Meal The Curious Omission Finding a Pony Anointing of the Sick A New Commandment After the Ascension Sin and Love The Cross and Joy The Call to Follow A Call for Humility Violence in America Two Thoughts on Prayer Live Today with Thanksgiving An Examined Life The Narrow Gate Serving Ourselves Losing Sheep Using Dishonest Wealth The Door and the Chasm Faith and Duty Distance and More Not Growing Weary Making a Difference Inadequacies and Grace Finding God Facing Turmoil Jesus, Remember Me The Lion and the Lamb Wild Like John Let Go in Love A Wider Christmas The Last Six Miles God’s Big Plan The Remnant The Salt of the Earth Beyond the Ten Commandments Love Your Enemy Focusing Our Worry How Evil Works Our Transfiguration Re-membering Our Lives Our Story If Only The Time for Hope A Second Greeting of Peace The Eucharist and Welcoming Practicing Non-Violence The Work of Forgiveness Why Are You Looking Up at the Sky? 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The Problem with Sparrows Eternal Creation Patient Vigilance Buried Treasure Thinking Again Where You Do Not Want to Go The Courage to Speak Humility and Truth Do Something Good Knowing the Song Acting Against Evil God Will Come What We Can Say Senseless Violence Invitation as a Threat What Belongs to God Two Commands, Side by Side Burdens We May Not See Foolish or Wise Accepting the Consequences Serving the Least Watching for Jesus Camels and Gnats Becoming Smaller The Christmas Barber The Ring of the Kings The Freedom and Faith of John the Baptist Zebedee The Opioid Crisis Approaching, Grasping, Lifting Up What God Intends The Battle with Satan Following Elijah and Moses Standing in Truth A God of Love or Condemnation When Life Turns Not Fully Prepared The Wounds We Carry Selling Onions Son of Encouragement To Love as God Loves Engagement with the World Doubting Disciples Sabbath Avoiding the Diabolical Persistent Hope Speaking the Word Within Us “And Also With You” Capital Punishment I Will Go On Three Wise Choices Will You Also Leave? Show No Partiality Carrying the Cross for Whom? Outside the Lines The Camel and the Needle Ask First for Sight What God Sees Only God The Arc of the Universe Turmoil, Fear, and Dismay The Gift of the Desert A Punch for the Holidays Politics and Religion Jesus Always Understands One Body God’s Love The Call Blessings and Woes Imitating God’s Mercy The Blind Leading the Blind The Devil’s Agenda Looking Closer, Looking Beyond Accepting God’s Love Mob Thinking The Easter Egg Fishing with Uncle Mike Loving Like Jesus God’s in Love with This World

Choosing Hell

Fr. George Smiga
September 29, 2013
Luke 16: 19-31

As Christians we believe in heaven and hell. But it is not that often that we stop to understand them. Heaven is the easier of the two. It makes certain sense that if we have a loving and caring God who guides us in this life, then that same God would extend life and joy after death. Hell is a stickier issue. How can we explain a loving and forgiving God who condemns his creatures to eternal torment? Is not God all merciful and forgiving? Then how can we explain eternal damnation?

It is an honest question, and one on which today’s gospel can shed some light. Today’s story of the rich man and Lazarus is one of the few times in the New Testament when we are given a glimpse of the afterlife. What we see is instructive.

The thing to notice in the story is that the rich man never changes. While he is alive he is completely absorbed in himself, in his purple clothing, fine linen, and sumptuous dinners. After death he is the same way. Even though he is in torment, what he is most concerned about is securing a drop of water to cool his tongue. It is all about him, from start to finish, in this world and in the next. What this story is telling us is that if you are filled up with yourself, if you are completely self-absorbed, there is no room for love. There is no room for heaven. Complete selfishness is hell.

The great chasm in the story that the rich man cannot cross and that people from the other side cannot cross has not been put there by Abraham. It has not been put there by God. That great chasm has been established by the rich man, himself. His heart is so closed in on himself that he can neither give nor receive love and mercy. The rich man wants to be happy. He sees happiness far off. But he does not understand that his condemnation is the result of his own selfishness. His isolation results from a chasm he has created through his own choices.

Now, Jesus tells us this story to warn us, to remind us that the choices we make today have eternal consequences. We are, today, shaping the person we will be for all eternity. Whenever we make choices to spend our time and energy only on ourselves, we increase self-absorption. When we fill our minds with obsessions about how we look, or what other people think about us; when we waste time surfing the internet or viewing pornography; when we make decisions that are based only upon our own comfort and pleasure; with each one of those decisions our heart closes in a bit more on itself.

On the other hand, when we open ourselves to service, when we reach out to help our children, our friends, our neighbors, when we give of what we have to those in need, or are willing to stand up and defend those whose freedom is endangered; through that generosity and service, our heart opens a bit more to love.

A glass that is already full cannot receive anything more. The rich man’s heart was so full of himself that he could not accept mercy and love. The joy of heaven is that we will be able to take in God’s presence and God’s glory. That invitation to heaven is being offered to every creature at every time. God cannot be blamed if some people so fill their hearts with themselves that they cannot take in what God offers. God does not send anyone to eternal torment. But we can choose to go there. We are making choices today that determine how much room we will have in our own hearts to accept love. So choose carefully. Because if we so fill up our lives with ourselves that we become completely full, we can keep all love out. And that would not only be a disaster. That would be hell.

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