Our Lord’s words in the Gospel hit pretty hard.
We can all think of people who are more guilty than we are.
I’m not a bad person. Are you a bad person?
We’re certainly not as bad as…well, certain other people we can think of--right?
Yet what did Jesus say?
“Do you think they were more guilty than everyone else…?”
No; unless you repent, “you will all perish as they did!”
Now I’m going to say something that may shock you--
but it is what our Faith teaches.
You and I won’t go to heaven because we’re good.
In fact, no one will go to heaven, because he or she is good.
And yet, only good people are in heaven.
Have I confused you?
It’s like this. Reverse the cause-and-effect.
What we do is treat “being good” as the cause;
and “heaven” as the effect.
But let’s turn it around--and now we’ll get it right:
Heaven is the cause--and being good is the effect.
Therefore: we don’t go to heaven because we’re good.
We become good as we let heaven draw us there!
So it's not about how we get to heaven--but how heaven gets us.
Now, let me be even more blunt:
Do we even want heaven?
I realize that seems a silly question.
If hell is endless horror--which is what Jesus said it is--
then, who wouldn’t say, “in that case, I’ll take heaven?”
But saying, “I’ll accept heaven”
is not the same thing as saying, “I want it.”
Heaven isn’t what the movies say it is: endless catering to what we like.
That’s Hollywood heaven--and it doesn’t exist.
Heaven has its own likes--and if we go there,
it’ll only be because we learn to like--and value and want--what heaven wants.
See, no one goes to hell because they turned away from heaven’s door;
but because they don’t want what heaven is; they can’t be happy there--
which means, they can’t be happy anywhere. And that’s hell.
So when our Lord says, “repent,”
it’s because he knows just how many of us
fix our desires on things that won’t last.
If what we hunger and thirst for is junk food,
then we’re ready for a heaven
that looks like a 3 am visit to a convenience store.
But that’s not heaven--aren’t you glad?
The only heaven there is, the only one we can hope for,
is filled with Jesus Christ!
The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the All in All!
So Jesus says, hunger and thirst for righteousness--and you will filled!
Let justice descend--and salvation bud forth!
Be merciful--and you will find mercy.
Be clean of heart--and you will see God!
Be meek, be lowly--and you will inherit the land!
These are the things heaven loves.
So this is the central task of our life:
to learn to love these things--and to love Christ!
So we repent, we go to confession; we return to the Eucharist,
we seek him, walk with him, become like him.
That’s how heaven gets us.