Some of the strongest and most-foreboding warnings about damnation and hell are on the lips of Jesus. This gospel lesson is one of many places where we hear Jesus speak such an ominous prediction: that sinners will be “thrown into a furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus’ words could seem especially threatening if you were ever a sinner. (I’ll add as an aside that, in a few moments there is opportunity for known sinners to make a confession, in the dire case we have any sinners here.)
Sometimes the longer we ponder something, the more complex it seems to become. Rather than gaining increasing clarity about the thing we are examining, we begin to perceive layers of complexity and uncover new and hidden dimensions. Our reflections leave us with more questions than answers. That has certainly been the case as I’ve pondered the meaning of this gospel parable over the past week.