Some think it's to "eat, drink, and be merry", acquire as many toys as you can, seek power and prestige and the money that brings it (and surrounds you with sycophants who flatter and cajole).
Is that what it's all about? Is that ALL it's about?
HELL NO! (And I mean the hell part literally.)
How many are dancing merrily along the primrose path to perdition? It seems like a pleasant saunter, but those foolish souls who choose it are missing the big picture. They spend all their energy on what is essentially the first ten feet of the journey that ends here:
But they've missed the big picture -- the road that stretches out to the horizon and beyond with multiple adventures around each bend and days filled with looking for the true, the good, and the beautiful -- and oftentimes finding it!
In C.S. Lewis' book, The Great Divorce, souls from the underworld take a bus trip to the anteroom of heaven. There, the saved, people they knew on earth, try to convince them to go to the mountains (the city on the hill). In the story, the souls on the bus are like wraiths and the reality of the new world is painful to them. The grass is as hard as nails. The water in the streams is like rocks. They can't pick a flower or bite into an apple. All of it is TOO REAL. Most refuse the help offered. They fear the suffering entailed in letting go of their beloved vices. They are afraid as they flee the Hound of Heaven that "having Him, [they] must have naught beside."
The world they came from seems huge to them, but it is a crack in the sidewalk of the REAL world. Most of the travelers are so narcissistic and self-absorbed, so afraid of losing themselves if they embrace truth, that they return to the safety of the bus to go back to the hell they've made for themselves with their illusions and delusions. For those who head to the mountain, life in the crack was Purgatory. For those who go back, it's hell.
I love that book, especially my audio version with the author who does the Scottish accent of George MacDonald so well. MacDonald was one of Lewis' heroes and has become one of mine as well. His children's books inspired Lewis' vision of Narnia.
Would that we had more Catholic bishops with the heart of George MacDonald. Here's an excerpt from one one of his sermons:
I believe that there is nothing good for me or for any man but God, and more and more of God, and that alone through knowing Christ can we come nigh to him. I believe that no man is ever condemned for any sin except one—that he will not leave his sins and come out of them, and be the child of him who is his father. That justice and mercy are simply one and the same thing; without justice to the full there can be no mercy, and without mercy to the full there can be no justice; that such is the mercy of God that he will hold his children in the consuming fire of his distance until they pay the uttermost farthing, until they drop the purse of selfishness with all the dross that is in it, and rush home to the Father and the Son, and the many brethren—rush inside the center of the life-giving fire whose outer circles burn.St. Teresa of Avila prayed to be a "burning furnace of charity." This month, dedicated to praying for the holy souls in Purgatory who dwell in the cleansing fire, offers an opportunity every day to teach our children the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: to bury the dead and to pray for the living and the dead.
I visited my brother's grave this morning to pray the chaplet of the Sacred Heart for the repose of his soul. I offered my morning Mass and will offer my rosary later for that same intention and for the repose of all the souls of my departed loved ones and the consolation of those left behind. I will be visiting cemeteries most days this month and hope to take some of my grandchildren with me. My little local grands knew my brother well, because we spent so many Sunday brunches together. They remember that he was funny and loved dragons. How much I miss him -- his booming voice, his breadth of knowledge, his incredible sense of humor. He was bigger than life, but with a humility that was self-effacing and sweet. If he's not in heaven already, may our good God take him there soon to entertain the host of heaven!
May the Divine Assistance remain always with us and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.