I think it’s natural, as we get older, to spend more time than usual thinking about hell. That’s because death may not be lurking, but it certainly looms.
Who among us doesn’t want to go to heaven?
At dinner the other night, a group of us wondered what the threshold might be. Exactly how bad can you be on Earth and still pass St. Peter’s muster? In other words, how many sins are too many sins?
Of course, there is an assumption being made here — the residue of Catholic school at work — that even if you sin, you might make it to heaven someday. Of course, Catholicism has an interesting fallback position, Purgatory, where you go to percolate for a bit until the sins wear off. So, if you steal a sponge ball or something from Walmart and die, you get sentenced to like, 50 years in Purgatory. I’m not sure if it’s dog years or regular years but either way, it’s a hell of a waiting list.
There are a variety of options still available, however.
What if the afterlife is simply pleasant dreams you have until eternity?
This works for me, because I dream I am the starting centerfielder for the New York Yankees. I hit a lot of home runs and the cheerleaders love me. Who cares if I never wake up?
In heaven, people lay around on clouds, dressed in white, while eating fruit.
The clouds are plush and comfy, at least 450-thread count.
The fruit is always ripe. There are no screaming babies, because they are on Limbo, which is an undiscovered planet out near the dwarf planet of Pluto, about eight million celestial miles from Purgatory.
All the nasty people we knew are in hell. For eternity. So, when your wife says, “We should visit my mom,” you can answer, “There’s no rush.”
The only problem with heaven, as we know it, is the gates, the so-called Pearly Gates. No one knows why they are called “Pearly.” I once asked a nun if it had anything to do with oysters and she slugged me.
St. Peter mans the gates, like a bouncer at a trendy nightclub and he decides if you get into heaven or not. Of course, it all depends on exactly how much he knows about you, because all of us have done things that probably disqualify us from heaven.
I used to think I was doomed to hell. St. Peter would look at me, pull out my dossier (which would weigh a ton) and start reading aloud the litany of sins, which began with “Lust” in the third grade (thank you, Donna Previti) and multiplied from there. Hell, I’ve coveted enough of my neighbor’s wives to almost guarantee a singed eternity, roasting in the black coals of hell.
“Murf, given your proclivity for cursing and gambling, I really don’t see a spot for you in heaven at this time,” St. Peter would doubtlessly say.
Who the hell does this guy think he is? I would ask for a second opinion, except at last count, I’ve taken the Lord’s name in vain 326,188 times – this year.
One strategy I’m contemplating is to die after 5 PM. That way you get the night watchman at the heavenly gates. You know the guy — he shows up with a Thermos full of coffee, a rolled up Daily News, and a foot-long hero sandwich. You either wait until he nods off to slip through the gates or go down the road a little bit and just kind of blend into the crowd.
My expectations were quickly quelled when I was informed the “festivities” kick off with a Communion breakfast at 9 AM.
My first question was, “Is there an open bar?”
“It’s all the blood of Christ you can drink,” an angel answered.
Growing up, I was often called upon to attend Communion breakfasts, which galled me, because they were typically on Saturday morning, which is supposed to be a day off from heavenly pursuits.
Heaven is like a theme park — there are religious-themed events all day, every day. It makes you want to take a little fling down to Pluto, kind of like a couple of cowboys going to Tijuana for the weekend. You come back with a tattoo of a gal name Rosalie and find out Elvis was your best man. St. Peter is not happy.
The worst-case scenario is you die and you find you had it all wrong: The kind, peaceful religious types were sent straight to hell and the ruthless, money grabbing scum with no souls were given positions of prominence in heaven.
Kind of like what happens in America.