Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Jeremiah 18:1-6; Matthew 13:47-53)
Author Graham Greene once wrote of his preference for the Gospel according to John. He liked the fourth gospel because it does not warn against hellfire. The Gospel according to Matthew, on the other hand, seems to relish talk of “wailing and the grinding of teeth.”
Today’s passage provides an example. Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of heaven being like a dragnet which hauls in both good and bad fish. Although Jesus says that the good fish will be set aside in buckets, emphasis is placed on the bad which will be thrown away just as the angels send the wicked to a “fiery furnace” at the end of time.
It has become fashionable to claim that no one may be in hell. But shouldn’t that thesis make us wonder whether justice is rendered to those who deliberately choose evil? Purgatory -- an intensive purifying experience – may provide a solution to the dilemma. Or perhaps the wicked are just left for oblivion without either the burning or beatitude? In any case we should keep in mind that Jesus’ purpose in speaking hell is to spur us to do what is right.