Religion column — The lottery

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 26, 2019

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

Three ministers and their wives were just coming back from a convention when they got in a wreck and were all killed. All three couples stood in line waiting to get into Heaven. Saint Peter opened the ledger books and said to the first man, “I can see that you were a good man, but had one problem. You lusted after alcohol your whole life, you never drank, but your lust was so strong you would never marry until you met a girl named Sherry.  Sorry, you can’t come in.” The second minister approached Peter and he said, “You were a good man, but it says here you lusted after money, and your lust was so strong that you would not marry until you met a girl named Penny. Sorry, you cannot come in.” The third minister turned to his wife and said, “Come on Fanny, let’s leave.”

These, and many other attempts at putting a lighter tone to our inevitable judgment, often brings smiles to our faces. Frequently, they offer some very human emotions, and situations, to which we may well identify. If these tales were only an attempt at humor and left the deeper issues alone, then there would be little basis for concern about Godly truth.

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At the core of humor, in general, is the farcical scenario which the humorist creates. In each, the situational context is brought “just past the edge,” which become the basis for the effort. If the humor is to be successful, which is measured only by our pleasure sensors, the comedic devices cannot be too extreme to be offensive, or objectionable, to our individual selves.

It has been said that an untruth, told often enough, becomes the new reality. We should know that the story of the Pearly Gates has devolved into one of this new reality. The great difficulty, for us, in separating this fanciful story, from the actual plans for our eternity, are given to us in the Holy Bible.

There are several fallacies perpetuated in the tale. First, we always seem to hear that Saint Peter will judge our entry into Heaven. Secondly, there is always that pesky ledger in front of him, as though Jesus Christ has given him the “passing grades” for those who suddenly appear. Somehow, God and His Son are left out of it all; or at least have been deemed to elect a remote surrogate.

From Scripture, it has been revealed that Jesus, and only He, shall be our judge. While there may be some effort, by others, to pray for our entry into eternal life, it is only Jesus, the Son of God, who will direct our path of “forever.”

In today’s populist theology, there is the “Great Ledger Book in the Sky.” In it are all of the deeds, both good and ill, of all of us writ down. Somehow, the idea is to put the good on one side and the bad on the left. Of course, who make the judgment about what’s good and what’s bad? Somehow, in some way, if the good outweighs the bad then we are in. This, once again, precludes the presence of God and His judgment.

We know Saint Peter was not a perfect man, for he was one of us. He was fraught with many human challenges, as shown in his denial of the Christ and his florid temper. Peter was most prone to all of the human frailties of God’s Creation. Only when Christ returned to Heaven, did Peter become the rock upon which the Christian Church was built. Yet, in his dedication, he remained so very human; given to all of the human emotions of this earth.

We cannot look upon Saint Peter, for the ultimate judgment, for to do so relies upon a flawed scenario and obscures Christian truth. Only through Jesus Christ, giving each one of us His grace and forgiveness, may we enter into eternal life with Him.