In the Walt Disney movie Shrek, Lord Farquaad finds out that the only way to become a king is to marry a Princess. He does not know who to marry, so the Magic Mirror offers him three options: Cinderella, Snow White or Princess Fiona.
Just like Lord Farquaad, we too are offered three clear options by Jesus for something far more important than who we marry – where we will go when we die. God has a reputation for being vague and unclear, but today Jesus is very clear about what happens the moment we die: he immediately judges our soul and directs us to the place we fit best – Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. This is the Particular Judgement. Jesus judges us because he wants to respect the choice we made in this life of how we fulfil our freedom: he sees what we do with it, and then carefully respects it. And he judges us perfectly because he knows and loves us perfectly.
Destination number one is Heaven. If our priority in all things was him then he happily takes us with him. That is what heaven is: being with God for eternity. Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. (CCC 1024) And it is true fulfillment – like pint glasses. Pint glasses are made to be full of good beer. In the same way, our heart is made to be filled by God. Already on earth, to be with God is to be a filled pint glass. But heaven is even better: the pint glass is under the tap, overflowing for eternity.
But to do that, we need first of all to be a clean pint glass. Who wants to spend eternity dirty, and having stuff blocking the glass – from our heart – from being filled? This is destination number two: Purgatory. Purgatory is the barmaid who cleans the glass of its filth, polishes it up, and holds it up to the light in such a way that it looks indistinguishable from the light. Cleaned in Purgatory, our heart receives the light of God in such a way that it becomes almost indistinguishable from the light of his love.
But Jesus warns us that there is a third option: that we can’t be united with God if we act gravely against him, our neighbour or ourselves, …if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brothers. This is destination number three: Hell. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice…those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer… “eternal fire.” What is this fire? Mainly it is the suffering of eternal separation from the happiness we are all made to be filled by, God, for all eternity (CCC 1033-5).
But even this is not the end – because the rest of the world is still going on. So as Jesus says, he will come back to finish what he started – to end all evil and suffering. This is the Final Judgement. He will unite our souls with our bodies and bring us all together for everyone to see the fullest consequences of our actions (CCC 1039) and then, as Jesus concludes, some will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.
So, as Jesus reminds us again today, do not be afraid to be close to God. Unlike the world, he does not look for the perfect – he only looks for dodos like you and me who know we are dodos but do our best to respond to his love – and then he takes away nothing, and gives us everything. Let us ask him to help us do that today.