Fr. Johnny Go S.J., School Director
There is a scene in the very first Harry Potter film which I suspect can give us some idea of how God will decide whether we will get to heaven or somewhere else. The scene is set on Harry Potter’s first day in school. He and the other new students are ushered into the great Hall where the older students are waiting to begin their first students’ assembly for the year. Professor Dumbledore gives them a welcoming address, and afterwards, everyone turns to a strange-looking object sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage. This object turns out to be what they call the “Sorting Hat.”
The Sorting Hat is no ordinary hat, of course. It is the special device used at Hogwarts to assign the students into their different houses—to “sort” the students. As we know, in Hogwarts, houses are like homeroom sections that the students are assigned to for their entire stay in school.
The time comes to assign the new students to their respective houses. Professor McGonagall announces to them: “When I call your name, come forth. I shall place the sorting hat on your head, and you shall be sorted into the different houses…”
The Sorting Hat sorts the students by talking to itself. Also, we notice that some students are easier to sort than others. For example, Harry’s friends, Hermione and Ron, the task is quite easy: They are immediately assigned to the house of Gryffindor. Harry’s enemy, Draco Malfoy, is even easier. Even before the Sorting Hat touches the boy’s head, it already makes up its mind, shouting “Slytherin!” It is that obvious.
But Harry Potter takes longer for the Sorting Hat to sort. Harry is like a very tough question in an exam. As it nestles on Harry Potter’s head, the Sorting Hat wrinkles its face, knits its eyebrows, and talks to itself for quite some time: “Hmm, difficult, very difficult,” it tells itself.
Then the Sorting Hat does three things:
First, it looks at what’s in Harry’s head. Of course it’s very impressed because as we know, Harry has many special talents and his gifts.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Hat also reads what’s in Harry’s heart, to see whether Harry is a good person or not, and whether or not he wants to use his talents and his gifts for himself, to make himself great, or for the service of others.
In the end, it basically gives Harry the choice. “Please, not Slytherin,” Harry whispers. So the Sorting Hat assigns him to the House of Gryffindor. Which, of course, makes Harry and his friends very happy because they all end up together in the same house.
End of scene.
I’m sure it won’t exactly be the same, but I think getting into heaven may be through a sorting process similar to that.
Just like some of the new students of Hogwarts, some of us will be quite easy to sort: whether we get to spend the rest of eternity with the Lord in heaven or away from Him.
But I suspect that most of us will have an experience more similar to Harry Potter’s—not so easy to sort and a little bit tougher to classify.
Of course God will probably not need a Sorting Hat to do the job, but I’m sure he will probably do more or less what the Sorting Hat did, especially the three things that it did to Harry Potter during their first General Assembly.
First, the Lord will look into our head the way the Sorting Hat looked into Harry Potter’s head. Like the Sorting Hat, the Lord will examine all the special gifts and talents that He has given to us in our lives.
But just like the Sorting Hat in the movie, our Lord will not stop there. He will peer into our hearts, and read our hearts and speak to us, asking whether we have used our special gifts and talents selfishly—only for ourselves—or if we have used them for others—in the service of those most in need.
Finally, just like the Sorting Hat, the Lord will probably give us the choice in the end. “Where do you want to go?” He will probably ask us. Now, maybe we’ll all say, “Well, that’s a no-brainer. Of course we want to go to heaven!” “Please, not hell!” we will whisper, just as Harry Potter pleaded that he not be assigned to the House of Slytherin.
That’s all wonderful, but there’s just one problem: It probably won’t be as simple or as easy as that. At that important moment when the Lord asks us what we want, it is believed that our answer—our choice—will be but the total sum of every single choice we have made every single day of our lives, major and minor, whether for the good or for the bad.
In other words, if we are used to choosing the good, choosing to help others, to share our gifts and talents with them, our choice will be heaven, and that’s where we will end up.
But if we are used to choosing not to do what’s good, to help only ourselves and not others, to keep and hoard our gifts and talents only to make ourselves better and richer, our selfishness will make us choose the same thing, and we will end up somewhere else in a place where the temperature will be much higher than heaven.
In the Gospel reading today, our Lord says: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”
He is obviously not promoting self-mutilation as a means of keeping away from sin. He is telling us that whenever we sin, we disfigure our souls. Whenever we hurt others, we mutilate and maim ourselves. Our Lord is also asking us to be careful about our daily decisions, especially our habits, because they shape our selves much more than we suspect and they determine our fate much more than we can imagine.
And so if we want to end up in heaven, we should start choosing heaven now. We should already practice being good, serving others, sharing what we have—in a word, to be a “person for others.” After all, “practice makes perfect.” If we want to go to heaven, we must practice choosing heaven now through our smallest and seemingly most minor decisions.
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