Saturday in the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Lam 2:2, 10-14, 18-19; Mt 8:5-17 at Mississippi Abbey
Mark Twain once said that some people are bothered by the words of Scripture they don’t understand but he’s bothered by the words he does understand. Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
This morning I feel uncomfortable when I hear Jesus talk about “the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” What bothers me even more is that Jesus repeats this warning six times in the Gospel of Matthew, telling us over and over that there is an outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.1
On the very first page of his Rule for Monasteries St. Benedict urges us to pray so that we will not be “delivered to everlasting punishment as wicked servants … [but] run while we have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake us.” 2
“To be in dread of hell”is so important that St. Benedict’s makes it one of his 72 Instruments of Good Works. But then he follows it with another important good work, “To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.” Today our world is paralyzed by a lack of holy fear and holy love. Let us ask the Lord to heal it, both the East and the West.
1. “(they) willbe thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt. 8:12).
“The Son of man will send his angels,and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt, 13:41-45).
“… at the close of the age the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt. 13:49-50).
“Then the King said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt. 22:13).
“The master of that servant … will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt. 24.-50-51).
“And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth,” (Mt. 25:30).
2. St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Ch. 4, Instruments of Good Works, ## 45 and 46, Liturgical Press, Collegeville.