Wednesday, September 25, 2013


In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, do you think the rich man was in Hell?  Well, I personally don’t think so and I’ll tell you why a little further down.

Until Jesus paid the ultimate price giving all of us access to heaven no one went to heaven but they didn’t necessarily deserve to go straight to hell either.  We can know this quite easily by looking at Peter’s declaration that after His death Jesus descended to preach to those in ‘prison’.  The word translated as ‘prison’ in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) is translated as… ‘He descended into hell’ in our Apostles Creed.

What would be the purpose of descending into Hell to preach the good news if the good news can’t benefit anyone (since there is no escaping hell)?  The translation of our Apostles Creed is actually a rather bad translation.  Most translations of the Bible describe Jesus’ descent as a descent to prison, not hell.  This makes more sense since we can understand now why Jesus would preach the Good News to those awaiting entrance into heaven.  They are given the choice to accept Him or to reject Him.

And so we see that before His perfect sacrifice all went to ‘prison’ to wait for the choice of accepting or rejecting Jesus and determine where there final destination would be.  That is, Heaven or Hell.

We can also know that there were many levels of comfort in the afterlife prior to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.  In the story of Lazarus and the poor man (Luke 16:19-31) we see that the poor man was more faithful to God and had already suffered his share.  And so after his death he rested in Abraham’s bosom while the rich man, after he died, suffered torment.  The rich man suffered but still had love for his still living brothers because he tried to have Abraham warn them of the consequences of their lifestyles.   The fact that he had love for others as opposed to love for self tells us that this man wasn’t in Hell either because Hell is, by definition, a complete separation of self from God and since we know that God is Love means that the rich does indeed have God in his heart.  So, where is he then?  Well, we know with certainty that the rich man is certainly not in Hell since he has love of others but he certainly is not in heaven either since he is suffering torment (Luke 16:24) and there is no suffering in heaven.  Which means that the rich man, as well as Lazarus, are in a ‘holding pattern’ awaiting the Good News.  They’re waiting for the day when their savior, the Christ, comes to preach to them the Good News allowing them to choose or reject Him (1 Pet 3:19).

The same principal occurs after Jesus’ sacrifice, once the gates of heaven have been opened.  Paul describes to us on that Day, our day of judgment.  Paul says: “12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.”

And so, after we die we are judged and our final destination is known but, even though we are saved, we can suffer loss and yet are saved as Paul describes.  But there is no suffering in heaven and no one is saved in hell.  Therefore, this burning, this suffering is occurring outside of heaven or hell.  This temporary suffering is the state of being that the Church calls Purgatory.

God Bless

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Atheists Can Reach Heaven?

Did Pope Francis say atheists don’t need to believe in God to be saved? (9 things to know)
by Jimmy Akin Sunday, September 15, 2013 9:14 PM Comments (97)

The press is full of accounts that, once again, claim that Pope Francis has said you don’t need to believe in God to go to heaven.

Even atheists can go there, according to these reports.  What’s the real story here? What’s going on? And why can’t the press get this kind of thing right?

Here are 9 things to know and share . . .

1) What is the basis of this story?

In July and August, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica ran a pair of open letters to the pope by Dr. Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist commentator.

In his open letters, Dr. Scalfari asked the pope a number of questions.  Much to everyone’s surprise, though thoroughly in keeping with his way of doing things, Pope Francis wrote a response, which the paper also published.

2) What did Pope Francis say in the letter?

Basically, he attempts to enter into a cordial and constructive dialogue, which is exactly what you’d expect.  He doesn’t go through Scalfari’s previous open letters point by point (presumably, that would make his own reply overly long), but he makes some general points and then attempts to answer some questions Scalfari posed.  One of these concerns the salvation of atheists.

3) How did the press and blogosphere react to what he said?

La Repubblica itself gave the story a quite accurate headline: “Pope Francisco writes to La Repubblica: ‘An open dialogue with non-believers.’”That’s a good summary of what the pope wrote.

In England, however, The Independent headlined it “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.”  This was inaccurate, as we will see.

The matter got further twisted in the blogosphere, when Evangelical blogger Jay Younts did a piece on it headlined “The Pope declares Man can save himself.”  This piece was then quoted by Kirk Cameron, who gave it the same headline and helped it go viral.

4) What did Pope Francis actually say about atheists and salvation?

Here is the passage:

First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith.   Given that—and this is fundamental—God's mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience.

In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil.   The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.

In this passage, you’ll note that after introducing the topic of salvation, Pope Francis begins by saying God’s mercy has no limits “if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart.”  This statement appears to apply to believers—the ones you would expect to ask God for mercy with contrition, etc.

Pope Francis then pivots to discuss “the issue for those who do not believe in God.”  He says that for them “the issue” is following their conscience, which will result in good behavior.  This is what the press, etc., have been interpreting as him saying that they can be saved.

But he doesn’t actually say that.  Believers also need to follow their conscience, and doing so will result in them having right behavior. But if they don’t follow their consciences then they sin and need to ask for mercy with contrition and a sincere heart.


6) What has the Magisterium already said on the subject of atheists and salvation?

In Lumen Gentium 16, the Second Vatican Council addressed the subject of “those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.”

This passage, like Pope Francis, stops short of saying that people in this condition can be saved. Instead, it says:  “Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.”  She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life.

This passage speaks of the elements of “good and truth” found among those who have “not yet” arrived at a knowledge of God as “a preparation for the Gospel” so that “they may finally have life.”

Thus when the text says that divine providence does not “deny the helps necessary for salvation” to these people, it may not mean that they can be saved without faith but that God is giving them the helps that they need to come to the point of faith and thus be saved.

The fact that the text is open to both of these interpretations was noted by Cardinal Aloys Grillmeier, who was one of the authors of Lumen Gentium, in his commentary on this part of the document (see Herbert Vorgrimler, ed., Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, vol. 1, p. 184).


8) Why wouldn’t Pope Francis just settle the matter?

One reason might be that he doesn’t think adequate study has been given to the question yet, and so he didn’t want to go beyond what the Council said.  Then there is the fact that letters to newspapers aren’t the place for doctrinal development to take place.

Another possibility is that he didn’t want to appear to tell Dr. Scalfari and other atheists that they’re fine where they are, and so he spoke in a very measured way that would invite them to consider what they really need to do when they have sinned: ask for mercy “in contrition and with a sincere heart”—in other words, to come to faith.

His intent may have been to engage in a cordial, public dialogue that sidestepped the question of whether atheists can be saved without coming to explicit faith and that implicitly encouraged them to come to faith and ask for mercy.

This also may have been a reason that Vatican II phrased itself the way that it did.

9) So the media and Evangelical blogosphere reaction was wrong?

Contrary to claims otherwise, Pope Francis did not say that atheists can go to heaven without coming to faith, and he most certainly did not say that man can save himself by his own efforts.

Indeed, he speaks of the need for God’s mercy.

God Bless 
Prepared by Nathan, a St.Denis parishioner

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Repentance and Mercy

In this week’s readings we find the themes of repentance and mercy.  In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells us that he was once a blasphemer, persecutor and arrogant but because he acted out of ignorance the grace of the Lord was abundant, along with faith and love that is in Jesus Christ.

I challenge you all to bring joy in heaven by repenting of your sins and praying for others to repent as well.  In today’s Gospel reading we find out that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.  So repent and bring joy in heaven.

We also know that the prayers of the righteous man avails much (James 5:16) therefore once you’ve repented of your sins please pray for others to do the same.  We have a beautiful example of this intercession in today’s first reading.

While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai God became displeased even angry at the multitudes at the base of the mountain.  You see, they had made a golden calf and were worshipping it but Moses interceded for them.  He asked God to have mercy on them and our Lord “relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” 

But are there sins just too heinous, or awful, that God simply cannot forgive no matter how repentant we may be?  No, there aren’t any.  We can know this with certainty by looking at the parable of the lost son.  We see that the worst possible sin one can make is to reject God and we see in this parable (Luke 15:11-31) that God is not only prepared to forgive the wayward son but that he is also waiting for his return.  We know this because we read in the parable that “while he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.” 

And so bring joy in heaven by repenting of your sins and praying for others to repent as well to bring even more joy in heaven.

God  Bless

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hate your Mother and Father

I don’t know about you but when I first read next Sunday's reading (Luke 14:25-33) and came to the part where if we do not hate our father and mother and even our wife and kids we cannot be His disciple I was somewhat confused.  How is ‘hating’ my wife and kids following His command to love one another?  I just didn’t get it.  Then I did some research.

I found out that what Jesus was saying here is for one to be His disciple he must be prepared to leave behind anyone who prevents him from serving Jesus.  You see, to ‘hate’ you father and mother is an idiomatic expression of that time and culture.  It simply meant ‘to love less’. 

For example, let’s have a look at the Book of Malachi, Chapter 1 verses 2 and 3.  God says: “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland…” (NIV)  If we look at the Amplified translation we see this text as “But [in comparison with the degree of love I have for Jacob] I have hated Esau and have laid waste his mountains…” (AMP)

It’s like saying in our time that someone has ‘kicked the bucket’ doesn’t really mean that one literally kicked a bucket but that he has died.  Or the expression that it’s raining cats and dogs doesn’t mean that cats and dogs are literally falling from the sky but that there’s a downpour outside.  The same kind of thing applies here.  Jesus wasn’t telling those who wanted to follow Him that they had to literally hate their spouses and even children.  He was simply saying that even the sacredness of family loyalty shouldn’t outweigh our commitment to Christ since we must be willing to abandon even close relationships to follow Him.

This way of reading this particular passage also explains what Jesus meant by bringing a sword and not peace in Mat 10 where He says: Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

To follow Jesus, that is to be His disciple, one must be willing to abandon even close relationships because many who are close to you will be unable to understand your path and reject you because of it, hence the turning away of the father and daughter and so on.

Just because they turn away from you or that your love toward Jesus Christ is greater than your love for your family doesn’t mean you leave or ignore them either.  We are to love one another and that means to be there to explain the hope that is in you with respect and gentleness (1 Pet 3:15), and of course to pray for their entrance into the faith.
God Bless