Mercy Gives Way to Paradise
By Father Pete Iorio
Kathleen Dowling Singh has accompanied thousands of people at the end of their lives. She reports that those who are most afraid of death are religious people. That is shocking to me. Somehow the message of hell, fire and brimstone was beaten into them instead of the merciful love of God. Fear of death is not good news. The Gospel which means the good news of Jesus Christ is that perfect love casts out all fear. Jesus on the cross offers that good news to the repentant thief.
“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
What mercy! What a hopeful message! What a joy! Consider this all merciful, loving God who is love is certainly greater than any human love.
This same message of mercy is offered to those who crucified Him, when Our Lord uttered a prayer: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
There’s a story about Saint Siloan of the monastery of Mount Athos. An angry old monk went up to the saint and said, “God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.” The saint was upset and responded, “supposing you went to paradise and from there, you looked down and saw somebody in hellfire. Could you possibly be happy?” The angry Monk responded, “it can’t be helped. It would be their fault.” The Saint said with a sorrowful countenance gazing into his eyes, “Love could not bear that.”
If you have ever loved someone, like your children, could you imagine being in the perfect joy of heaven thinking that your children are being tortured by God for one or more sins that you see in them? I don’t think so.
Jesus offers good news which always offers hope, boundless love and mercy. From the cross, he utters two merciful phrases: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” – to those who crucified him and “today, you will be with me in paradise.”