The Road to Heaven Invites Us
8:30 a.m., on the day of the big sale, a long line formed in front of the store. A small man pushed his way to the front of the line, only to be pushed back, amid loud and colorful curses.
On the man's second attempt, he was punched in the jaw, knocked around and thrown to the end of the line. "That does it!” he shouted. “If they hit me one more time, I'm not opening the store!"
One line we are not anxious to lead but are content to wait in is our life line. It is a great consolation that at the end of our lives, which is more literally “the end of the line”, there is someone waiting for us with open arms. Jesus has died and has risen, thus trampling death into defeat.
We have heard enough hellfire and brimstone sermons to go with our natural doubts about God and eternity. Is God’s love all-embracing and magnanimous? Is Christ’s act of love good news to the sinner or is it condemnation?
I am reminded of a Good Shepherd story a priest from India shared: When he was a child growing up on a farm in India, his grandfather told him to go out and bring all the cattle into the barn. He said he went out with a stick and beat them and yelled at them, and they went in every direction.
His grandfather asked, “What are you doing? That is not how you do it at all.” Then his grandfather took a sack of hay, gave a bit of it to each of the cattle, put the rest of it on his shoulder and walked ahead; and all the cattle followed him quietly into the barn.
Have we not seen the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep? He already nourishes us with his heavenly food. His love and gentleness invite and include. He is a God of mercy, not justice. (Matthew 9:13).
We can get some indication of this by looking at the words and actions of Jesus on the day of his death. Jesus cried out about those who were persecuting, torturing and killing him: “Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing.” In generosity, Jesus turned to the repentant thief and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Recently I hung up the phone on a five and a half million-dollar publisher’s sweepstakes prize which the caller claimed was mine, for a small fee. He insisted the money was on its way. Did I want the presentation to be a public or private event?
There are prizes for which we should strive. Going to church regularly is one step in pursuing the eternal treasure. Daily prayers and scripture improve our chances for the big one.
All kidding aside, the “big one” is already won. Christ died on the
cross to give us that eternal reward. If we understood the tremendous love in the action of the Cross, following Evangelists preaching repentance would be easier.
The Good News is that Christ died for sinners, not for the just. Last time I checked, I was still among the eligible recipients. The Publisher’s Clearing House van may never stop in my driveway, but I expect an angel messenger someday will.