GOD'S WAKEUP CALL:
HEAVEN, PURGATORY & HELL
© 1994 Rev. T. G. Morrow
Cover photo by Anne-Marie Alexander
+ Nihil Obstat:
Rev. Richard J. Murphy, O.M.I.
Rev. Msgr. William J. Kane
Vicar General for the
Archdiocese of Washington
September 9, 1993
The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and the imprimatur agree with the content, opinions or statements expressed.
Why is it that so few people today strive for holiness? Why so few who even seek any religious involvement, any morality in their lives? I submit a major reason is that they have been lulled to sleep about the most critical moment they will ever face: divine judgement. It seems certain that if more people kept in mind that they will surely die one day and meet the LordSat which time their eternal destiny will be sealedSthey might be more dedicated to preparing for that crucial day. Add to this the all-important knowledge as to just what they can expect on that day, and we have true motivations to live the gospel. Alas, many believe nowadays that heaven is boring, hell is empty and purgatory is like a doctor's waiting-room. Not so, according to Christ and his Church.
What follows is information drawn from Scripture, Church tradition and the writings of the doctors of the Church (saints who were great teachers) and other saints, on just what one can expect at the end of this life from heaven, purgatory and hell.
What is the final goal we seek in living our Catholic faith? Is it not to enter into heaven and enjoy happiness with God forever? But, what is heaven? What is it like? Although we don't know exactly what heaven is like, since this has never been revealed, the Church does teach us some things about heaven through Scripture and Tradition.
Scripture and Tradition
Our Blessed Lord refers to heaven using several different terms about 170 times in the gospels. He uses the terms heaven, Kingdom of heaven, Kingdom of God, life, and eternal life to describe the place of eternal reward. He often speaks of the Kingdom of heaven by comparing it to things we are familiar with on earth:
The Kingdom of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field. He hid it again, and rejoicing at his find went and sold all he had and bought that field. Or again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant's search for fine pearls. When he found one really valuable pearl, he went back and put up for sale all that he had and bought it. (Mt 13:44_46)
Twice he speaks of the Kingdom as being like a wedding feast (Mt 22:1+, Mt 25:1+), as does the author of the book of Revelation (Rv 19:7+). When Peter asks Jesus what the apostles can expect for giving up everything to follow him, Our Lord replies:
I give you my word, there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children or property for me and for the gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many homes, brothers and sisters, mothers, children and property_and persecution besides_and in the age to come, everlasting life. (Mk 10:29,30)
Thus, Our Lord clearly speaks of the Kingdom of heaven as something very valuable, worth selling all you have to possess, as a feast celebrating a commitment of love, and as a rich reward for whatever sacrifice we make here on earth.
St. Paul speaks of heaven in glowing terms:
Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor. 2:9)
The author of the Book of Revelation promises the end of all physical evils:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heavens had passed away, and the sea was no longer. I also saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne cry out: "This is God's dwelling place among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain; for the former world has passed away." (Rev 21:1_4)
How long does heaven last? The Church teaches the following:
The...enjoyment [of those in heaven] has continued and will continue without any interruption and without end until the last Judgement and from then on forever. (Pope Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus, 1336)
This is based on Our Lord's frequent references to heaven as being everlasting life and Saints Peter and Paul's references to an "imperishable crown." (Cor 9:25, 1 Pet 5:4)
Will everyone be at the same level in Heaven, or will some receive a greater reward than others? We find the answer in Church teaching:
The souls of those who enter heaven clearly behold God himself, one and three as He is, but corresponding to the difference of their merits, the one more perfectly than the other. (Council of Florence)
This is based on the words of Our Lord: "The Son of man... will repay each man according to his conduct," (Mt 16:27) and the words of St. Paul: "Each will receive his wages in proportion to his toil." (1 Cor 3:8; see also 2 Cor 9:6)
The Doctors and Saints
Many of the saints wrote of the tremendous joy and happiness that awaits those who are worthy of Heaven:
What then, must be the consolations of the blessed, seeing that men on earth enjoy so much of so many and of such marvelous blessings? (St. Augustine)
Our life lasts only a couple of hours. Our reward is boundless. (St. Teresa of Avila)
The indescribable sweetness of this perfect union cannot be told by tongue, which is but a finite thing. (St. Catherine of Siena)
Were (the soul) to have but a foreglimpse of the height and beauty of God, she would not only desire death in order to see him now forever, as she here desires, but she would very gladly undergo a thousand singularly bitter deaths to see Him only for a moment; and having seen Him, she would ask to suffer just as many more that she might see Him for another moment. (St. John of the Cross)
Just as Our Lord compared heaven to a wedding feast, so some of the saints likened heaven to being married to God:
The husband of every Christian soul is God; for she is joined to him by faith. (St. Gregory the Great)
One does not reach this garden of full transformation which is the joy, delight and glory of spiritual marriage, without first passing through the spiritual espousal and the loyal and mutual love of betrothed persons. For, after the soul has been for some time the betrothed of the Son of God in gentle and complete love, God calls her and places her in His flowering garden to consummate this most joyful state of marriage with Him... Yet in this life this union cannot be perfect, although it is beyond words and thought. (St. John of the Cross)
From this we can infer that the joy of heaven is experienced not only in the next life; it begins here on earth as a taste of the joy to come.
In 1572 St. Teresa of Avila received the following words from Our Blessed Lord:
...you shall be My wife from today. Until now you have not merited it; from now on, you shall look to my honor not only as creator and as King and your God, but as my true wife.
With regard to the different levels in heaven, St. Therese, the Little Flower, compared this to the filling of two different sized glasses with water. One contains more water than the other, yet they are both full. So it will be with those who enter Heaven: each of us will have a different capacity, but each will be filled to capacity with God's love. Some have objected that the inequality in Heaven might cause envy. But, to this argument St. Augustine answered:
There will be no envy on account of the unequal glory, since the unity of love will reign in all.
Over the years I have often asked my students what they thought heaven might be like, and the answers were frequently something like the following: "A nice place, with clouds, lots of angels, gold streets, etc." Not bad, I told them, but we should be able to do better than that. One thing we can be certain of is that Heaven must be better than the most exciting and enjoyable moments we have ever experienced on this earth. I suggested to the students that (in the spirit of St. Augustine's words above) no matter what picture they might paint of what they would like Heaven to be, it will surely be better than that. Some spoke of a Disney World, others of a candy tree, and others of a great pizza parlor (that great pizza parlor in the sky). One boy described his ideal as being on a Caribbean Island with lots of native girls feeding him grapes. (!)
Perhaps the best insights as to the joys of heaven are those given by the three saints above who likened it to being in a perfect marriage with the perfect Spouse. This beautiful image is very much in line with the scriptural themes found in the Song of Songs, a story of passionate love between the Lord and his people, Ezekiel 16, the story of the marriage covenant between God and an unfaithful woman, and Hosea 2, story of God luring back his promiscuous spouse. When we think that the beauty of the most beautiful of God's creatures on earth (both men and women) is only a faint image of the beauty of God, these creatures for whom our hearts burn in this life, it is beyond understanding how deep will be our passionate love for God, our true Spouse in Heaven.
Regarding the different levels in Heaven, the following comparison might be made. If a person were to attend an opera having attended many operas, and having studied opera for many years and come to know it and love it well, he would no doubt be able to appreciate the performance better than someone who knew very little about opera. The capacity to enjoy the opera would be greater in the opera buff than in the other person. So, likewise will our capacity to appreciate the vision of God be greater in Heaven if we come to know Him well while we live on this earth.
What about our loved ones? Will we see them in heaven? Yes, the common theological opinion is that we will know and love all of God's creations, including the angels, saints and those whom we have known in this life. The "communion of saints" will continue into eternity.
We know as Christians, that for those who do not enter into Heaven, or the state of purification prior to Heaven, the alternative is not a pleasant one: Hell. Is there really such a thing as Hell? Does anyone go there? Did Our Lord speak of Hell? Will it last forever? What is it like?
Scripture and Tradition
Our Lord refers to Hell and its punishment about 30 times in the gospels. He uses the terms Hades and Gehenna, both translated as Hell, but more often speaks of fire, everlasting fire or unquenchable fire.
If your hand is your difficulty, cut it off! Better for you to enter life maimed than to keep both hands and enter Gehenna with its unquenchable fire. If your foot is your undoing, cut it off! Better for you to enter life crippled than to be thrown into Gehenna with both feet. If your eye is your downfall, tear it out! Better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to be thrown with both eyes into Gehenna, where "the worm dies not and the fire is never extinguished." (Mk 9:43_48)
Of course, Our Lord is not literally suggesting that anyone should cut off his hand or tear out his eye. He uses these comparisons simply to indicate the terrible nature of Hell, and the sin which sends one there. It seems he accomplished his goal very well, for the words are truly frightening.
Does anyone go to Hell? There is, of course no way of knowing who does go to Hell, but Our Blessed Lord did say the following:
Go in through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the road which leads to ruin, and there are many who go in through it. Narrow is the gate and hard is the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Mt 7:13,14)
Jesus also said, "The invited are many, the elect are few" (Mt 22:14) and "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you will seek to enter and will not be able" (Lk 13:24).
Many people wonder if perhaps at some point in time Hell might end and all the souls be released. Origen, a theologian in the early Church, believed that Hell would not last for all eternity, as did some others. However, the Church never approved this idea and in fact, declared that the punishment of Hell would last for all eternity (Fourth Lateran Council). This was no doubt based on the use of the word "eternal" or "everlasting" in Scripture when describing the punishment of Hell. (See Mt 25:41 & 46; 2 Thess 1:9.)
The Doctors and Saints
Many people through the ages have had great difficulty in imagining that there is such a thing as Hell, in light of all the revelations about God's goodness and mercy. The doctrine of Hell is truly a mystery with which we must struggle, even after it has clearly been spelled out to us, and yet the Church doctors were all agreed on their acceptance of this doctrine. St. Augustine wrote the following:
(Hell) is not a matter of feeling but of fact... there is no way of waiving or weakening the words the Lord has told us he will pronounce at the last judgement.
St. Bernard wrote of the importance of thinking or meditating on the horrors of Hell:
Let us descend into Hell while living, so that we will not descend into Hell after we are dead! (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
St. Teresa of Avila relates the following:
...I was at prayer one day when suddenly, without knowing how, I found myself, as I thought, plunged right into Hell. I realized it was the Lord's will that I should see the place which the devils had prepared for me there and which I had merited for my sins... I felt a fire within my soul the nature of which I am utterly incapable of describing. My bodily sufferings were so intolerable that, though in my life I have endured the severest sufferings of this kind__the worst it is possible to endure, the doctors say, such as the shrinking of the nerves during my paralysis...__ none of them is of the smallest account by comparison with what I felt then, to say nothing of the knowledge that they would be endless and never_ceasing. And these are nothing by comparison with the agony of my soul, an oppression, a suffocation and an affliction so deeply felt... that I cannot too forcibly describe it.
An argument that is often raised is that there can be no one in Hell because a mother could never be happy in Heaven knowing that her child was in Hell. On this subject St. Catherine of Siena wrote this:
A person in Heaven has his will so united to God's will that a father or mother seeing his son or a son seeing his father or mother in Hell is not troubled.
This fact would be combined with the fact that in Heaven the soul would be so filled with an all_consuming love for the Lord, that all other loves would hardly be missed.
A theory which arose in the 12th century about the nature of Hell punishment holds for two pains: the pain of loss, of not seeing God; and the pain of sense, believed to be a burning sensation. St. Catherine of Siena commented on these two as follows:
The first pain of Hell is being deprived of the vision of God, which is such pain to souls that they would rather choose the fire and torments and see God than be without them and not see God.
Thus, the pain of not seeing God is viewed as far more agonizing than the pain of sense.
The mystery of Hell is involved with the freedom of mankind and the justice of God. Although God is all_merciful, one who enters Hell has rejected God's mercy, and God does not overrule our freedom to force acceptance of that mercy. Perhaps the following analogy can shed some light on this. Let's say you come upon someone working on his car trying to solve a problem which you solved on your own car the previous week. Now, let's say that you offer him some advice, explaining that you know just how to fix the problem. But, although it is obvious that he is going about it the wrong way, let's suppose that he rejects your offer, saying, "Look, I don't need your help. I can fix it myself." And the more you insist on helping him, the more insistent he is in refusing. You can't very well tie him up and fix the car for him. Even if you did, there would be no merit on his part for getting the car fixed. The merit would be all yours. Thus, because he is too proud to accept your help, he is left to his problem which he may never solve.
So it is with the Lord. He has the answer to all our problems; he is the answer. But, if we reject him, he cannot, without denying our freedom (and thus the merit of our love), force us to accept him. Thus, he must leave us in our self_chosen misery of having rejected God who is infinitely good.
The doctrine of Purgatory has always given rise to many questions. Is Purgatory mentioned in Sacred Scriptures? It is a doctrine of the Church? What is Purgatory? What is it like? Why is it necessary? Does everyone who enters Purgatory end up in Heaven?
Scripture and Tradition
The word Purgatory does not appear in the Bible. The doctrine of Purgatory began to be taught by the early Fathers (the theologians and saints of the first several centuries) of the Church, based on indirect references to it in Scripture, and was subsequently taught by Church councils.
The Council of Lyons (1274) taught of the purification required for those who die before making reparation for their sins, and the Council of Florence (1439) repeated this teaching almost word for word:
The souls of those who die with true repentance and in God's love before having rendered satisfaction for their sins of omission and commission by the worthy fruits of penance, are purified after death by purgatorial punishments.
In 1547 the Council of Trent taught in the strongest terms the doctrine of temporal punishment due to sin either in this world or in the other, in purgatory, and the need to believe in this doctrine. This teaching of the Church was based on a number of passages in Scripture, the first of which is the following:
The noble Judas... took up a collection... which he sent to Jerusalem to provide a sacrifice as a sin_offering. In doing so he acted in an altogether fine and noble way, in which he took full account of the resurrection of the dead; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. (II Maccabees, 12:42_46)
If there were only Heaven and Hell, it would be of no value to pray and offer sacrifices for the dead: if they were in Hell, our prayers could not help them. If they were in heaven, they would not need our help.
Other passages from Scripture which support this doctrine include the following from Matthew 12:32 in which Our Lord says: "...let anyone speak against the Holy Spirit and he will not be forgiven either in this world or in the next." This was taken to imply that sins could be remitted in the world to come. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he writes:
The Day will disclose it. That day will make its appearance with fire, and fire will test the quality of each man's work. If the building a man has raised on this foundation still stands, he will receive his recompense; if a man's building burns he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as one fleeing through fire. (1 Cor 3:13_15)
This was seen as an indirect reference to Purgatory. Finally, we find in Matthew the following words of Jesus:
Then in anger the master handed him (the wicked servant) over to the torturers until he had paid back all that he owed. My heavenly Father will treat you in exactly the same way unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart. (Mt 18:34,5)
As recently as 1967 Pope Paul VI alluded to the doctrine of Purgatory in the following words:
The truth has been divinely revealed that sins are followed by punishments. God's holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life, and above all, through death. Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or "purifying" punishments. (Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, Paul VI, 1967 para. 2)
We know also, that after the general judgement of the world at the end of time there will be only two states, Heaven and Hell, as spoken of by Our Lord (Mt. 25:34_41). Thus, purgatory will not continue after the general judgement.
Opinions of the Doctors and Saints
Many ask what is the nature of the punishment in Purgatory? The following quotes from three Doctors of the Church give some insight on the matter.
This fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen or conceived in this world. (St. Augustine)
In Purgatory there will be a twofold loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely the punishment by bodily fire. With regard to both, the least pain of Purgatory surpasses the greatest pain of this life. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, App 1 Q2 a1)
The greater part of those who dread Purgatory so much think more of their own interests than of the interests of God's glory; this proceeds from the fact that they think only of the sufferings without considering the peace and happiness which are there enjoyed by the holy souls. It is true that the torments are so great that the most acute sufferings of this life bear no comparison to them; but the interior satisfaction which is there enjoyed is such that no prosperity nor contentment upon earth can equal it.
...Their bitterest anguish is soothed by a certain profound peace. It is a species of Hell as regards the suffering; it is a Paradise as regards the delight infused into their hearts by charity__-a charity stronger than death and more powerful than Hell... (St. Francis de Sales)
Thus, it appears that there will be tremendous suffering accompanied by a tremendous sense of peace and joy knowing that the soul will be united with God.
St. Francis de Sales also writes that the soul has its will so united with God, that it would not enter into Heaven if it could, knowing the stains with which it is disfigured, but purifies itself lovingly and willingly. That is, the soul would not be comfortable in God's presence without first being purified. St. Catherine of Genoa puts it this way:
The divine essence is of such purity that the soul that has the slightest imperfection in itself would cast itself into a thousand hells rather than find itself in the presence of the Divine Majesty with that stain on it.
We know from the Church teachings above that a person may suffer their purgatory on this earth, but one might question as to how the doing of penance might compare to the suffering in Purgatory. Two answers are provided:
Let us... strive to do penance in this life. How sweet will be the death of those who have done penance for all their sins and need not go to Purgatory! (St. Teresa of Avila)
He who purifies himself from his faults in the present life satisfies with a penny a debt of a thousand silver pieces; and he who waits until the other life to pay his debts consents to pay a thousand silver pieces for that which he might have paid before with a penny. (St. Catherine of Genoa)
The quote of St. Catherine of Genoa given above provides a key insight not only into the nature of Purgatory, but to life as well. God's goodness is of such perfection that we simply could not stand to be in his presence if we were not first cleansed of our imperfections. It is as if we were to attend a formal ball in which everyone was dressed in gowns and tuxedos. If we attended in overalls, all covered with grease, we would feel quite out of place there. But, if we were to return home and clean up and then return to the party nicely dressed, all would be well.
The late C.S. Lewis, well known Anglican author, wrote this about Purgatory:
Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, "It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy"? Should we not reply, "With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first." "It may hurt, you know." "Even so, sir."
Not only do our souls demand it, but justice demands Purgatory too. For example, suppose Johnny is playing ball near Mrs. Smith's house and he throws a ball through her window. In order to make everything right he should not only go to Mrs. Smith and apologize, but he should also replace the window. Thus, even after we are forgiven our sins, in fairness we should do what we can to repair the damage, that is, make reparation. How does one make reparation for sins? How did Our Lord do it? He suffered. Thus, we suffer too. In his suffering and death Jesus repaired the infinite dimension of sin; in our suffering we repair (at least some of) the finite dimension.
Does God then keep track of everything we do wrong in a little notebook? There is no need for God to do that, since our nature keeps track of everything. Each time we do something wrong, our (personal) nature is changed for the worse, just as each time we do something good, our nature is changed for the better. Thus, Purgatory is the undoing of the evil aspects of our nature which sin has produced.
Would one go to Purgatory if he/she were to die just after having gone to confession and completed the penance? Many would mistakenly answer no to this question. While it is true that one is forgiven for sins in a good confession, and the penance given is for the penitent to make reparation for his/her sins, the penance received in confession is ordinarily only a symbolic penance, not one designed to totally repair the damage. In the early Church the penances were quite severe for serious sins, so severe that people would either avoid the sacrament of penance completely or they would wait until their deathbed to confess. This is why the penances were reduced to the much lighter ones given nowadays. However, for a serious sin there is a great deal to repair, and this is one reason why the saints led_-_and all Christians should lead_-_a penitential life: to make up for their sins and the sins of the world.
As to why it is much easier to make reparation in this life than to wait for the next, consider this: How much more value is there in things done freely, in faith, than in those stemming from our state of being and without the need for faith.
There are two types of judgement: the particular judgement, which occurs for each person immediately after death; and the general judgement, which will occur at the Second Coming of Christ.
Scripture and Tradition
Although there is no specifically defined doctrine on the particular judgement, it is assumed, based on the doctrine that the souls of the departed enter immediately after death into Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. This latter doctrine was taught by both the Councils of Lyons (1274) and of Florence (1439).
This doctrine is implied in Scripture by the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luck 16:22+) and the words of Our Lord to the repentant thief on the cross, "This day you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
With regard to the General Judgement, both the Apostles' Creed and the Profession of Faith used in mass affirm that Christ will come "to judge the living and the dead." Any article of faith in the Creed is considered an essential part of Catholic doctrine.
Our Lord often refers to the "Day of judgement" or the "Judgement" in Scripture. In particular, these would include the scene in Matthew 25:31 in which Jesus proclaims he will come again and separate the sheep from the goats, and Mt.12:36.
What a mind boggling thought it is to know that the way we live for the next 30 or 40 years, more or less, will determine our way of existence, not for a hundred years, or even a thousand or a million years, but for all eternity. And the reward that awaits us is beyond our wildest dream: God Himself, in a glorious marriage. Next to such thoughts nothing else matters...and yet how seldom many of us reflect on such things.
Our life could be likened to travelling on an uphill road. At the top of the hill is heaven, at the bottom, hell. As we travel up the hill the road is less and less steep, but if we choose to travel down the hill, the road becomes steeper and steeper. Thus, if we travel up the hill, the way becomes easier, but as we travel down, the way becomes easier too. There is only one road, two ways to travel.
There is a way of using the knowledge of the last things which can be very harmful. This would be to take the reality of hell and use it as a club to beat a person with to keep them in line, to control them, to get them to do what is right. This can be very aggravating to the recipient, though very satisfying to the one pursuing it. It seems to be a way of denying the person's freedom. This is not God's way. We read in the "Letter to Diognetus," a document of the second century, "[God sent Jesus] for saving and persuading, but not for compelling. Compulsion, you see, is not an attribute of God." God shows us the two ways, and asks us to choose freely. He waits and waits patiently. He sends us people and events to help us make the right decision. But he never makes the decision for us. And, when we have made our final decision for or against Him, he calls us to live by that decision.
There seems to be an assumption among many people that there is only one choice: for God. This is not true. We are free to make either choice, and the gate to ruin "is wide, and many go through it." This is a frightening thought, a truly saddening thought, and yet it is a thought we should reflect upon often, as did the saints. Those who think they are immune from any danger, be it of this world or the next, are by that fact the most vulnerable.
Heaven - Don't Miss It!
With such a critical choice facing us, we can't afford to make the wrong choice. The secret to salvation lies first in facing the reality of eternal life, and the fact that "Narrow is the gate and hard is the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
Second comes a serious reading of what Christ has said we must do. Things such as: (in answer to the question "What must I do to have eternal life?") "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself" (Lk 10:27), and "If you wish to enter life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17); "You must be perfected as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48); "I solemnly assure you unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Jn 3:5); "I solemnly assure you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53); "...do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19); "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink..." (Mt 25:31); to his apostles "He who hears you hears me" (Lk 10:16).
Third comes a serious reading of what the Scriptures have said we must avoid: "Now the works of the flesh are clear: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like... those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Ga 5:19-21. See also 1 Cor 6:9); Jesus judges harshly those who did not help the needy (Mt 25:45). Clearly all of this is merely a sketch, and more comprehensive interpretation is needed in some instances, but the general thrust is clear: Jesus is very demanding.
Finally, once our minds are converted, we must spend a lifetime converting our hearts, conforming our actions to Jesus' commands. This is the challenge of the gospel... and the way to salvation.
Heaven: don't miss it for the world!
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The basis for the scriptural quotes is the New American Bible © 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
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