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 say anything about damnation and hell fire. It only talks of eternal life. The Gospel according to Matthew, on the other hand, seems to relish images of punishment like in today’s passage, “wailing and the grinding of teeth.”
Jesus is speaking of the Kingdom of heaven being like a dragnet which captures both good and bad fish. Although he says that the good fish will be set aside in buckets, he seems to emphasize the bad which will be thrown away. He adds that it will be this way with wicked people who will be cast into “the 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 in the world? It seems obvious that some people deliberately choose to do 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 about hell is always to spur us to do what is right.