by Ken Rolheiser
Summer and a short cut to heaven

    A monk who was negligent of spiritual duties was dying. The abbot and brothers gathered around him to give him courage. To their surprise he was facing death with great peace. The abbot asked how he could face God’s judgement with such confidence.
    “It is true that I was not a good monk, but I have never judged anyone. I intend to say to the Master Christ, ‘You said, Lord, not to judge, in order not to be judged,’ and I hope that He will not judge me strictly,” the dying monk said.
    “Go in peace on your eternal journey, my child,” the abbot told him with wonderment. “You have succeeded, without toil, in saving yourself.”

This may sound like a short cut to heaven or a way to manipulate God’s judgement, but a deeper reality is at play. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13).

How many times Jesus focuses on mercy and not on justice or sacrifice. The Beatitudes echo, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). And, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you." (Matthew 6:14).

The quality of mercy makes us more like God. St Ambrose described it as “becoming by grace what God is by nature.” And all our great religions follow this principle: To love one another as God has loved us. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Compassion for others grows from this. Jesus illustrated this in the Good Samaritan parable, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:33-37).

The overwhelming question for us is how do we become merciful and in nature like Jesus? We cannot pass on what we do not have – our deeper values, philosophy and religion. We must go to the fountain of graces and the heart of love.

Make this a summer project! To get to know Jesus we must visit his gospels, his life and teachings. The best start for lay persons is to frequent Sunday services, scriptures and daily prayers. And what is the benefit of having a merciful heart?

St. Isaac the Syrian describes such a heart: “What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. 
       “By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled, and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. 
    “For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm him, that they be protected and receive mercy… because of the great compassion that burns without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.”

All our love of neighbor and our environment is covered here. On the final day of judgement God will reward us on the basis of how well we carried out the summer exercise above. 

The King will say to those on His right hand, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

(582 words)