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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Rewards of Heaven and Hell

The Catholic Church gives us a lot of freedom when it comes to interpreting scripture, there are very few that have a definite interpretation. The other verses must be interpreted within the boundaries of the Catholic faith, the context of scripture and tradition.

I have been studying the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. In case you have forgotten the parable is about two men, one rich and Lazarus who is poor and sick. Lazarus begs from the rich man every day but to no avail. Well both men die and Lazarus goes to Abraham’s side and the rich man goes to a place of fire.

We naturally think that the rich man is in hell, until you look closely. The rich man intercedes for his 5 brothers. He says:

Luke 16:27, 28 -  `Then I beg you, father [Abraham], to send [Lazarus] to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'

So it seems that the rich man being in this place of fire is interceding for his 5 brothers right? Isn’t that love? Yet we know that there is no love in hell. Therefore I thought that this place of fire very well might be Purgatory. The rich man is in Purgatory and is interceding on behalf of his five brothers so they might avoid this pain.

But then I read St. Catherine of Sienna, who in her book – The Dialogue – Where God the Father is instructing her about the spiritual life has this to say about hell and the rich man.

“If they finish their life, dying in hatred with the guilt of mortal sin, their souls, by divine justice, remain forever bound with the bonds of hatred, and forever obstinate in that evil, in which, therefore, being gnawed by themselves, their pains always increase, especially the pains of those who have been the cause of damnation to others, as that rich man, who was damned, demonstrated to you when he begged the favor that Lazarus might go to his brothers, who were in the world, to tell them of his pains. This, certainly, he did not do out of love or compassion for his brothers, for he was deprived of love and could not desire good, either for My honor or their salvation, because, as I have already told you, the damned souls cannot do any good to their neighbor, and they blaspheme Me, because their life ended in hatred of Me and of virtue. But why then did he do it? He did it because he was the eldest, and had nourished them up in the same miseries in which he had lived, so that he was the cause of their damnation, and he saw pain increased to himself, on account of their damnation when they should arrive in torment together with him, to be gnawed forever by hatred, because in hatred they finished their lives."

So God the Father, albeit through a private revelation, interprets this verse for us. The intercession of the rich man was selfish. He didn’t want his brothers to come there because he had taught them to be like him and their arrival in hell would only increase his pains.

What about the opposite of this case, what about those who lead a good example to others here on earth.

Well reasoning inside of this interpretation we can see that those who are a good example to others in their holiness and good works and words will be rewarded in heaven over and over.

I am thinking of St. Therese of Lisieux, who isn’t known in her life on earth of being a missionary like St. Francis Xavier. She didn’t have great visions like St. Catherine of Sienna. She was just an obedient nun who did little things with great love, and she wrote this down in a book.

Yet today she is celebrated by over a billion people because of her holiness and example.  Thousands have read her book and millions of heard of her message of the little way.

Now imagine how the joy of St. Therese will increase as people arrive in heaven  because they have followed her good example.

We are not all called to be cloistered monks and nuns, and we are not all called to be missionaries, but we are all called to be holy. When you die, what will people say that you cared about the most?