There’s an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. One interpretation of this proverb is that unless we’re a success with whatever we set out to do, we’ve ultimately failed despite our good intentions.
I respectfully disagree. My take is more along the lines of something St. Teresa of Calcutta often said: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” God ultimately looks at our hearts, not at the outcome.
Advent calls us to reflect on the Incarnation. We ponder Jesus’ first coming in order to prepare ourselves for his return in glory. Chances are good that none of us will be around for the day when all will see the Lord coming down from the clouds (Mark 13:26). It’s more likely that we’ll see him face-to-face at the particular judgment, the moment after death (Heb 9:27).
We can be certain that He will not look at our resumes, our bank account balances, our investment portfolios or our net worth. It’s even doubtful that he’ll examine our charitable giving or the number of times we genuflected at Mass.
We can be certain, however, that He will examine our hearts: Did we live for ourselves or others? Were we we merciful in the vein of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son’s father? Did we respond with love when confronted with hate? When we failed to love, did we repent and ask forgiveness? Did we die in a state of grace?
We should also ponder the key words of The Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. If you break open its meaning, it’s clear that we’ll be forgiven in the same way we forgive others. If we withhold forgiveness, the Lord may withhold forgiveness from us.
We can’t pave our way to heaven with good works. Our good works, however, should flow from a heart in love with Our Lord Jesus Christ. A heart in love with Love itself is a heart that will overflow in ways that can transform every soul we encounter. That’s a heart that will live on forever, praising the Father for his merciful heart that sent his only begotten Son to us as a helpless baby in a manger — all part of his grand rescue plan for the human race.
PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.