Railroad crossings in England have signs which warn: Stop. Look. Listen. These actions are intended to prevent motorists or pedestrians from being struck by a moving train. They might also be an appropriate response to Jesus’ words in today’s gospel.
Our Lord spoke of the end of the age: The good is separated from the bad; some rejoice, others weep. These words can shake us up and make us feel uncomfortable. But maybe that’s Jesus’ intention.
Heaven, of course, is where God ultimately wants all of us to be. At the same time, heaven is not presented to us as a guarantee. Not because God is vindictive, but because he respects our freedom. God is indeed merciful! At the same time, we cannot take God’s mercy for granted. Not because he’s going to take it away, but because when we take God’s mercy for granted, we begin to take God for granted. And that’s not where Jesus wants us to be.
Perhaps we can understand today’s gospel as an invitation to stop, look, and listen: Stop for a moment and examine our life; Look at how we live measures up with our faith; and Listen to Jesus’ words, then put them in action. Because if we want to be with God even a fraction of as much as he wants us to be with him, then the way we live will reflect our hope.
St. Therese of Lisieux put it well: “I will do anything,” she said, “for heaven.”