Bear with me, friends. Here in its entirety was the Gospel reading, the longer version, in Catholic Churches this past Sunday.
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”
He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”
He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.
Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
On my tour Up North I have been church hopping. The place is not important. The deacon gave the homily, which started, “When I read that Gospel, what struck me was God’s abundance.”
“God just doesn’t give enough, he gives too much. In abundance.”
Words about joy, plenty, goods for the taking and the like. Went on for ten, twelve minutes. Joel Osteen could have given the same speech. Osteen for the same effort would have had a bigger gate, though. Because of the fear of coronadoom the church put the collection basket by the door, into which parishioners were supposed to show their abundance as they exited. If they remembered.
In any case, I ask you, dear reader, is that what struck you when you read this passage? Abundance? The peroration was:
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Not everybody has ears for that. David Bentley Hart has a new and ingenious way around the obvious implications of these words, but to get there he had to bend his own translation of scripture, so that (something like) will didn’t mean will (in this, Gorsuch is his brother). Even Hart didn’t opt for abundance as his escape mechanism.
It’s not the fear of Hell that causes us these days to not only to reject the notion of eternal damnation, but to be offended by it. Not offended by Hell, the place, but by those with the poor taste to mention that some are on their way to that disquieting location.
It’s also not that people—and here I speak of professing people of The Book—don’t think Hell doesn’t exist. Denizens might include Hitler, Satan, and, in his time, Trump. But never ourselves and our own. We are nice people. Besides, how can anybody go to Hell when we are equal to God?
Ed Feser just reviewed Plato’s Republic. We are now, according to Plato, at one step from the bottom, at Democracy, the worst state next to tyranny. A prime and essential characteristic of Democracy is Equality (the quotations below are Plato).
Democracy on Plato’s account is characterized by the “diversity of its characters” and “treats all men as equal, whether they are equal or not.” In particular, it treats all ways of life as equal, no matter how puerile, irrational, or immoral.
The young “throw off all inhibitions” and celebrate “insolence, license, extravagance, and shamelessness.” They flit faddishly from one activity to another. At one moment they will pursue “wine, women, and song,” and at the next “water to drink and a strict diet”; a keen interest in “hard physical training” might give way to “indolence and careless ease”; today they will devote themselves to philosophical study, tomorrow politics, and the day after that business. If anyone tries to tell them that some desires are bad and should be suppressed, they “won’t listen,” but insist that “all pleasures are equal and should have equal rights.”…
…Democratic man insists on “complete equality and liberty in the relations between the sexes,” and on drawing “no distinction between alien and citizen and foreigner.” Plato tells us that license is extended even to domestic animals, who freely roam the streets of the democratic city.
We are one step beyond Eve and believe we we are like gods. Gods cannot be judged by other gods. Gods sometimes suffer setbacks and pain, but only in limited form. Gods war with gods. But there is no lasting punishment, nothing eternal. We have no need of forgiveness, because gods set their own moral rules. We do know good and evil, but it our wills that create the distinction.
Democracy thus extends to Heaven and earth. Hell isn’t even for other people.
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