Not the Kingdom
Yesterday we prayed a Rosary decade on Our Lord's Preaching of the Kingdom.
Today I want to talk about what is quite literally the opposite of the Kingdom. Hell.
And as the Kingdom is both among us and yet to come, so too is hell. It is both the final judgment, but it is also something we carry in our hard hearts and spread around on earth. Here Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus dialogues with a devil about just this subject.
FAUSTUS: First I will question with thee about hell. Tell me, where is the place that men call hell? MEPHISTOPHELES: Under the heavens.
FAUSTUS. Ay, so are all things else; but whereabouts? MEPHISTOPHELES: Within the bowels of these elements, Where we are tortur'd and remain for ever: Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib'd In one self-place; but where we are is hell, And where hell is, there must we ever be: And, to be short, when all the world dissolves, And every creature shall be purified, All places shall be hell that are not heaven.
FAUSTUS: I think hell's a fable. MEPHISTOPHELES: Ay, think so still, till experience change thy
... For I tell thee I am damn'd and now in hell. FAUSTUS: Nay, and this be hell, I'll willingly be damn'd: What! sleeping, eating, walking, and disputing!
When I was a struggling actor in my 20's, wanting badly to make a splash, I met a guy in Chicago who wanted even more desperately to make a splash. He was doing Local Access Cable - which was exactly like YouTube, only nobody watched it. He was angry, driven, frustrated, miserable.
"May I not be like him!" I thought to myself. "May I not let the thing I love - theater and drama - be an occasion for me becoming so negative, so focused on my success or lack thereof. May I love what I do with good will and never grow to hate it, just because it's difficult or things aren't going my way."
Many years later, after my conversion, we started Theater of the Word Incorporated. I got to do exactly what I had been dreaming of doing all my life - good dramatic art that moved people and touched souls. We traveled the country from coast to coast at our busiest and performed hundreds of shows per year.
And I was angry, driven, frustrated, miserable. It was worse than Local Access!
"You are not far from the Kingdom of God," said Jesus to the man who understood love. (Mat. 12:34)
"You are not far from the Kingdom of Satan," he may have said to me. God forbid! "... lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Cor. 9:27)
I then asked God to change my heart, and He largely has. But how easy it is for me to get caught up in all the busy work, the daily frustrations, the bad clients and annoying actors, the resistance, the crosses both small and big. How easy for God's greatest gift to me to be despised and tarnished.
The same can be said for how we view our husbands or wives. We are, most days, angry or frustrated or overwhelmed with just trying to tread water and stay caught up. It is easy to forget how deep the love runs, how true it really is.
If we do anything for the wrong reasons, with selfish intentions, we will end up in this hellish place, a place devoid of joy and separated from all that's good.
If, on the other hand, we forget the price we're paying and simply put in everything, heedless of worldly success or failure or human respect ... then we are not far from the Kingdom of God.
Let us pray ...
To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.