Roadmaps to Holiness
“As we are, so we associate. The good, by affinity, seek the good; the vile, by affinity, the vile. Thus of their own volition, souls proceed into Heaven, into Hell.“ ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
In his peculiar but unforgettable novel The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, by way of postal letters ~ anyone remember those? ~ between the diabolical senior demon Screwtape and his young nephew and apprentice Wormwood, speaks of Satan’s illicit tactic of beguiling unaware and naive souls into believing that neither he nor hell exists. In doing so, he theorizes, the “client,” in this instance the soul to which Wormwood has been assigned to steal and deliver to the netherworld for all of eternity, is for all intents and purposes lulled into a false sense of security in matters pertaining to his or her eternal resting place.
Here are but a few of Screwtape’s instructions and tips on the matter by way of his correspondence with his fledgling nephew:
“Keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. If once we can produce our perfect work – the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “forces” while denying the existence of “spirits”....then the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey our orders. I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that “devils” are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you.”
Unfortunately we see this refusal to accept Satan’s existence in arenas that extend far beyond fictional literature. I say unfortunate of course for it is impossible to win a battle which one does not even realize he or she is engaged in. Confusion has become the norm. Case in point: a fairly high-profile Catholic priest gave an interview on a widely-viewed Sunday Evening News Program not too long ago wherein he said the “devil does not exist. He is merely a fictional character conjured up by large religious institutions in order to control and scare people.” He went on to add that “Hell does not exist either,” a remarkable claim in light of the fact that Jesus speaks of hell over and over again in Scripture.
Today’s Gospel (Matthew 25:31-46) captures one of those instances.
In this passage, we look in on Jesus as he foreshadows the judgement of the nations, wherein he has returned in his glory. To those on his right, he will say "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,“ going on to explain why they achieved eternal life. They fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked and visited the imprisoned.
Conversely, those who neglected these corporal acts of mercy in their lifetime will be cast into “the eternal fire prepared for the devils and his angels.”
Jesus concludes this passage by explaining that whatever one does (or does not do) for the least of one’s brothers and sisters, they will have in fact done (or not done) unto Him. “The accursed will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.“
Our 1st Reading today (Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18) outlines many of the “do’s and don’t” of discipleship if you will, speaking out against such sins as stealing, dishonesty, slander, fraud and hatred among other things. So whereas this reading deals with matters of a more deeper, spiritual nature (for lack of a better term) than those that are discussed in today’s Gospel, which urge the reader to serve their fellow neighbors’ more immediate and basic needs, these passages complement each other nicely for they help to shape and mold the true and comprehensive Catholic Character from stem to stern, encouraging a life rooted in righteousness, charity, honesty and decency. They serve to provide something of a spiritual roadmap for everyone who ardently seeks the Kingdom of Heaven, which should be everyone. There is, after all, an “eternal alternative,” this despite Screwtape’s best efforts to persuade precariously vulnerable souls into thinking otherwise.
Reflect upon these Readings today in an effort to conduct a thorough examination of conscience. Lent is a great season to seek out and subsequently rid one’s self of those “spiritual blind spots,” sinful habits that we may find ourselves drift towards, habits that need to be remedied. But we need to uncover them first of course. Continue also to seek out opportunities to perform small work of charity during this Lenten Season so that they will be ingrained habits by the time Easter Monday rolls around. For “behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
We adore you oh Christ and we praise you, for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.