Getting it wrong
Since my last column it seems many things have gone wrong. The big issue was the referendum on the E.U. and what we were told was going to happen. We were told that the Remain camp would win by about 52% to 48%. The reverse was the real outcome. We voted by 52% to 48% to leave the E.U. and take back control.
Those who supported Remain were very unhappy. Those who supported Leave were not so happy either. Lots of things we were told would happen turned out not to be. Let’s take a look at what we were told. The Prime Minister told us that he would remain in post to see us through the exit from Europe if we voted for that. The day after he announced his departure – after his summer holidays, that is. He got it wrong.
We had been promised that £365 million that went to the E.U. each week would be saved and could be spent on the NHS. Now is seems that was a mistake. They got it wrong. We would take back control of our borders and cut out immigration. It seems we got that wrong as well. However we would have experienced charismatic political leaders to negotiate our terms for leaving the E.U.
Sadly, it seems that they have found it impossible to accept the job, possibly as a result of internal squabbling. Surprisingly, some of those who voted to leave didn’t expect to win, thinking everyone else would vote to stay. They got it wrong.
I saw a comment from one prominent Leave politician saying we should hire some experts from Asia to negotiate our exit. This was the man who said we should disregard experts. It seems he got it wrong. The same man then stood up in the European Parliament and told all the other M.E.P. s that they had never held a proper job. He was surrounded by scientists, prominent businessmen, entrepreneurs and others who held very senior posts. He just got it wrong.
Getting it wrong is more common that we like to think. I was listening to the news this morning and heard that Southern Trains is going to cut out hundreds of trains because they have been unable to get people into London on time for work. They didn’t explain how having fewer trains will help people get into London. They will just have fewer trains arriving late. I think they got it wrong.
Fortunately, as Catholics, we can have confidence that we got it right. We joined the right Church and if we go to Mass on Sundays, get to confession (just before we die) and avoid a criminal lifestyle then we are assured a place in Heaven. I’ll avoid telling the story of Ian Paisley being shown round Heaven by Saint Peter, coming on a high wall with “Silence!” notices displayed. “What’s in there?” He asked. “That’s where the Catholics are. They think they’re the only ones here.”, came the answer.
Sadly, I think we Catholics do get it wrong – often. All too often we are presumptuous. We assume that having declared ourselves to be on God’s side He will be on our side too. We can go about our business knowing that God is looking after us. We have done our bit and now it is up to God to keep his side of the bargain.
Many Catholics recognise that Jesus showed us good examples to copy and spend their lives in good works to earn a place in Heaven. The more we do here on Earth the higher the place we will have in Heaven. This is not a new idea. In Mark’s gospel we see James and John, the apostles, ask Jesus about their place in Heaven.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. “Master,” they said to him “we want you to do us a favour.” He said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in glory”. “You do not know what you are asking.” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?” They replied, “We can”. Jesus said to them “The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted”.
Mark 10: 35, 40
This is a curious passage and it raises many questions. James and John have given up everything to follow Jesus. They are willing to face whatever befalls them for His sake. They expect to be rewarded in Heaven and are asking Jesus how they will fare. Jesus recognises their sacrifice but tells them that what they do will not earn them a high place in Heaven. They got it wrong.
When we do good works here on Earth to earn a high place in Heaven – we get it wrong. We are not promised a high reward for our work. I wonder who those people are, to whom those places are allotted. Jesus does not tell us. It is worth remembering that we do not know the mind of God.
Does this mean that we don’t need to do any good works to get into Heaven? We can find the answer in Luke’s gospel.
“Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”
Luke 17:7, 10
So there you have it. We are no more than servants and do good works because that is what we have been told to do. We are not earning a high place in Heaven – we got that wrong. We can only get to Heaven by the mercy of God. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the outreaching hand of God’s mercy to pull us into Heaven.
Just as an aside, I wonder about this idea of sitting in Heaven on Jesus’ right hand or left hand. Think about the saints you know. Saint Anthony never gets a minute for people like me asking him to find things they have lost (and making a few pounds for the poor in the process). Saint Pio is constantly bombarded with requests and Saint Rita seems to spend hours finding parking places for my wife.
If these great saints are kept busy in Heaven what lies in store for the rest of us lesser beings? It doesn’t sound like an easy time, but it might be fun.