Grace Notes 9/15/22
Featured column from The Lumen from Sister Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT:
The Better Part
Several years ago, the Biography Channel ran a number of stories on near-death experiences. One story involved a man, Matthew Botsford, who had traveled to Atlanta for business meetings and was killed in a drive-by shooting outside a restaurant.
After dying, this man found himself closed inside a terrifying darkness, confined to a cell where he couldn’t move to the right or the left and couldn’t move up or down. He heard screams and dreadful noises all around him. He knew he was in hell, and he did not question that he should be there. He understood that love didn’t belong in that place and that he was being kept there and would be there forever. He experienced an “incredible evil pressing in” on him, along with great terror and fear.
For Matthew, this was torment. And yet, he was not what the world would consider a bad person. He was a successful businessman. But he understood that he had put success in business, in his projects, in his work, above everything else, above God and his family. He was completely materialistic, and for that, he knew he was where he merited to be. He explained that at the time, he did not even know the name of Jesus and, therefore, never thought to cry out for help or to express sorrow.
During his dying experience, he had been rushed to the local ER, and they had worked frantically to bring him back. He had been shot in the head, and after 4 minutes without a heartbeat, his chances of survival were almost zero.
But his experience on the other side was one of suddenly seeing an immense hand slowly reach down from above and grab him while he heard a voice “like the roar of mighty waters,” tell him it was not his time. At this point, the doctors were able to restart his heart. But Matthew had gone over 5 minutes with no heartbeat and now had massive brain damage. He was not expected to survive the night. So, the doctors began seeking consent to harvest the organs of this otherwise perfectly healthy 28-year-old.
His wife, who had flown in immediately upon hearing what had happened and seeing his condition, began praying for him, asking God to restore her husband as she knew him. She rightly feared that his survival might be compromised by grave disability from brain damage. But she refused to terminate life support and promised God she would stay with him. She stayed by his bedside for 27 days until he began to come out of his coma.
Matthew slowly recovered though he still has the bullet lodged in his brain and suffers certain effects from the shooting. But none is as deep as the realization that hell is real, and this life is meant for far more than accumulating wealth and success by the world’s standards.
His wife recognizes that God changed Matthew’s heart. He exudes peace and anticipates the life to come now that he knows what the real focus is meant to be. He devotes himself to God, his family, and to helping others understand that every choice here impacts our eternity. He has chronicled his experience in a book called “A Day in Hell” and continues to emphasize we will spend forever in one of two places: heaven or hell.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once lamented the amount of suffering in the world that is wasted because it is not united to the redemptive suffering of Christ. This man discovered that work also can be wasted when we are not working for things that will last. The world may greatly admire us for our energy, industriousness, our successes, and our productivity. But, as Jesus said: To whom will all your built-up treasure go?
The “better part” that Jesus spoke of has to be found in each of our lives. And then it has to be embraced as the true treasure that gives us a pledge of heaven and the unimaginable life God has prepared for us. It is profitable to remember that the devil also has a place prepared for us, and where we end up is a consequence of our choices along the way.