Word Magazine February 1986 Page 15
HEAVEN CAN WAIT – HELL IS IN A HURRY!
Homily By Father James C. Meena
If I greeted you with a common statement of our times, “Go to hell”, would you be surprised? Shocked? Caught off guard? Resentful?
But really, why should you be? This is an expression you have heard and tolerated and probably uttered meaninglessly countless times. Is it that you consider it out of place; or is it that you are surprised to hear a clergyman use the expression as part of his monthly articles, or to hear a man of the “Cloth” speak the words at all?
St. Paul made this protest: “I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellent speech, nor did I preach to you with learning about the mystery of God. For I did not pretend to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and even Him crucified”, (1 Cor. 2:1-2). In that same spirit I protest that I have nothing very profound to say. I do wish to share the idea that “HEAVEN CAN WAIT BUT HELL IS IN A HURRY”.
Throughout his most excellent bestseller, THE SCREWTAPE PAPERS . . . “A Minor Masterpiece of Modern Religious Prose”. . . C.S. Lewis maintains an underlying threadlike sense of urgency on the part of Mr. Screwtape, advocate of all Satanic subtleties, that hell’s candidates be converted as quickly and as inobtrusively as possible because the “ENEMY” — (GOD) has the power and the predilection to redeem man even at the last hour. He writes as follows:
“How valuable time is to us may be gauged by the fact that the ENEMY allows us so little of it. (SOME) of the human race dies in infancy; of the survivors, a good many die in youth. It is obvious that to Him human birth is important chiefly as the qualification for human death, and death solely as the gate to that other kind of life. We are allowed to work only on a selected minority of that race, for what humans call a “Normal Life” is the exception. Apparently He wants some . . . but only a very few of the human animals with which He is peopling Heaven to have had the experience of resisting us through an earthly life of sixty or seventy years. Well, there is our opportunity. The smaller it is, the better we must use it”. — (Chapter 28, Screwtape Letters)
Heaven can wait, all right, but Hell is truly in a hurry. John Bunyan indicates how powerful is the patience of Heaven when, in the Pilgrim’s Progress, he writes:
“The (venom-filled) spider taketh hold with her hands (as you can see) and lives in Kings’ Palaces. Why is this recorded except to show you that howsoever full of the venom of sin you may be, yet you may, by the hand of faith, lay hold of and dwell in the best room that belongs to the Kings house above”, (“The Devil’s Garden”, P. 201).
Yes, Heaven can wait, but Hell cannot, for Heaven is patient and long-suffering, plenteous in redemption and abundant in mercy while Hell struggles impatiently to rob us of every semblance of piety and righteousness.
Heaven can wait, but Hell cannot. For Heaven owns eternity and Hell has but a lifetime!
Heaven can wait but Hell cannot because the Lord of Heaven made us in His image and likeness, lovingly, for the sake of the love invested in us while Hell counter-produces its own evil with evil, for pride is its pre-condition and love its dire enemy.
Heaven can wait for out of it came the revelations and inspiration for all the Law and the Prophets, for Patriarchs, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists and for every righteous spirit made perfect in the faith, by whose examples and teachings we are remolded, patiently and carefully, from the imperfection of the first earthly man, Adam, to the grace and perfection of the last and Heavenly man, Jesus Christ .
Hell is in a hurry for it offers only that we may become hungry and thirsty again.
Yes, we react with disbelief should we hear a clergyman use a vulgarity we usually consider innocuous but we do not pause to consider the dualism of our reaction. The subtle symptoms of the diseased human condition which subscribes to a given standard for me on the one hand and a different standard for you on the other are almost totally lost to us. This is but a small sampling of the larger problems growing out of the dualism with which we as Christians ought to come to grips.