Mark and Steve were thoroughly enjoying their visit to Rome. It was part of their tour of Europe that was a two-week excursion beginning in Rome and ending up in London. Quite an ambitious trip. The group was staying two nights in Rome. One of the highlights was the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
As the tour group was leaving the museum, Mark asked Steve what he thought of Michelangelo’s painting of the Last Judgment. Steve replied that he thought it was pretty wild, especially the depiction of the people who were being taken into Hell. Pretty creepy, and scary!
Steve asked, “Mark, what do you think of all this stuff about the last judgment? Do you really think that’s what happens to a person? I don’t like to think that God would act that way. I’d rather see it that we are all going to heaven unless we do something really horrendous.”
Mark said, “I do think there will be a judgment of some kind. I actually looked it up in the Catechism and it does talk about it. I see it this way: Jesus wants nothing more than that we be saved. That’s why he went to the cross. And he’s trying to help us to get rid of the things that cause us to sin in our life. Christ will be with us on the way and be very patient with us, and more than happy to forgive us through Reconciliation, but how many times are we going to say “no” to Him and His invitations? If we keep rejecting His offers of healing and forgiveness…I don’t know?
Some would say that the second reading this (evening) morning “is one of the great, moving passages of the New Testament and that in it the writer has given us a near-perfect summary of the Christian life.” Let’s listen to part of it again—in a slightly different translation:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses enveloping us, let us strip off every weight and let us rid ourselves of the sin which so persistently surrounds us, and let us run with steadfast endurance the course that is marked out for us and, as we do so, let us keep our gaze fixed on Jesus who, in order to win the joy that was set before him, steadfastly endured the cross, thinking nothing of its shame, and has now taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
What we see here is that there’s a goal in life. William Barclay, a great Scripture scholar, said that Christians “are not tourists, who return each night to the place from which they started; they are pilgrims who are traveling on the way…The Christian life is supposed to be going somewhere, and at each day’s ending we would do well to ask ourselves: “Am I any further on?”
Am I any further on? That’s a great question. We are asked by Jesus to travel the high road with a purpose. But we can get bogged down or over burdened with something we call sin. We are not going to try and climb a mountain with a lot of unnecessary baggage. So, in this life there’s a duty to discard things—what I mean by this are all the things which hold us back. And Christ’s cross becomes the way that is made possible. So don’t be weighed down by unnecessary burdens. Live your life with a goal in mind—the goal to be like Christ. And while on the way, keep your eyes fixed on Christ. Ask for help and seek HIs forgiveness.
And remember that question asked at the end of the day: “Am I any further along?”