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Loss of Heaven & Pains of Hell

First Reading: Wisdom 18:14-16; 19:6-9

When peaceful stillness compassed everything
and the night in its swift course was half spent,
Your all-powerful word, from heaven’s royal throne
bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land,
bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree.
And as he alighted, he filled every place with death;
he still reached to heaven, while he stood upon the earth.
For all creation, in its several kinds, was being made over anew,
serving its natural laws,
that your children might be preserved unharmed.
The cloud overshadowed their camp;
and out of what had before been water, dry land was seen emerging:
Out of the Red Sea an unimpeded road,
and a grassy plain out of the mighty flood.
Over this crossed the whole nation sheltered by your hand,
after they beheld stupendous wonders.
For they ranged about like horses,
and bounded about like lambs,
praising you, O Lord! their deliverer.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 105:2-3, 36-37, 42-43

R. (5a) Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
Then he struck every first born throughout their land,
the first fruits of all their manhood.
And he led them forth laden with silver and gold,
with not a weakling among their tribes.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
For he remembered his holy word
to his servant Abraham.
And he led forth his people with joy;
with shouts of joy, his chosen ones.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

Gospel: Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

NAB

nov 14

I’m kinda the dishonest judge here, and I pray to overcome this tendency to do the right thing for the right reason so that God will, indeed, find faith on earth.

How do I go about doing the right thing? Do I do it when I realize it is the morally correct course of action? Or do I do it when I’m really pinched, nagged, and reluctant? This Gospel reading makes me a tad uneasy as I know that God knows my motivation. He knows what’s in my heart, regardless of how I appear to the rest of the world. That unflinching omnipresent God of ours knows the pouting in my mind, the unkindness on my heart.

This ties in with the prayer we say during the Sacrament of Confession (or Reconciliation), the Act of Contrition. We say we are sorry, not only because we’re afraid of losing Heaven and suffering in Hell, but also because we’ve offended God.

We don’t allege that we are only sorry because we did the wrong thing. In fact, we outright say that only part of our contrition is informed by our conscience. The other is driven by our fear of losing out on that eternal unity with the best-party-beyond-imagination. We are fallen creatures, we do struggle with sin, we are going to be driven by less-than-ideal motives to do the right thing. To be run by our feelings alone is to be a slave to ourselves.

The Gospel says that God will take care of His chosen ones speedily. If even a dishonest judge will eventually do what’s right for a widow, think of the ultimate adjudicator in God, and how well He will care for us! When the Son of Man comes, let’s ensure we are faithful, and endure, and try to overcome our fears and emotions driving us, replacing them with a sense of God’s love for us and justice for our neighbors.

Are you being ruled by your feelings today, and oscillating between guilt and self-righteousness? Do the right thing for the right reasons, if you can. If you can’t, go to Confession and get those graces to help you!

Nell O’Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.

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