Luke 13: 22-30
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. And some one said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them, "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, `Lord, open to us.' He will answer you, `I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, `We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, `I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!' There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
We don't talk about Hell much anymore, but I believe it is a real place. My pastor on Sunday commented on how we usually say, when people die, that they are in a better place. We don't know that. Many of the saints assure us that the vast majority of us are going to Purgatory, because of God's endless mercy; but, in reality, it's not a nice place.
When my grandmother passed away in the spring, we told my daughter she was "on her way to see Jesus, and we don't know when she'll get there." My grandmother was a devout, holy woman in my opinion, but I don't know the depths of her soul. So, I felt confident saying she was "on her way to Heaven" although that allows for a stop in Purgatory of any length to cleanse her impurities before meeting the Lord face to face.
Do I live my life like it is very possible I could be going to Hell? This Gospel speaks of the narrow door of Heaven. Do I have a realistic view of the afterlife, or do I see it all through rose-colored glasses? How often do I reflect on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory? Do I think I have a basic understanding of each one? Do I pray for the grace of a happy death and a journey towards Heaven?
I was once taught that the most terrible punishment of Hell is to be separated from God, that the weeping and gnashing of teeth will just be our natural reaction to knowing we have cut ourselves completely from Him. While Scripture says there will be other consequences, as well, I think there is some truth to what I was taught. How do I feel about being separated from God? When we sin, we separate ourselves from Him. Do I weep and gnash my teeth (and head to Confession) or do I shrug off my sin without a second thought?
And, how do I describe the dead? It would be nice to imagine them all in Heaven, but in case they're not there yet, they need our prayers. Do I pray for the deceased in my family and the Holy Souls in Purgatory? Does my family pray for the dearly departed? How can I add this to our day if it is not already a part of it (many families add this prayer to their dinner grace or use it after their meals)?