Eternal punishment. Like it or not, it is a biblical concept, albeit a late-blooming one. In the Old Testament, the afterlife is rarely spoken of, and when it is, it is usually pictured as a shadowy, wraithlike existence.
Occasionally in the news one hears about an infant that has been abandoned by its parents—left at a church door, perhaps, or found on a side street somewhere, or even in a garbage can. If the parent or parents are found (usually in our North American context it is the mother), she or they are prosecuted. And we shudder and think, “What sort of heartless person could do a thing like that?”
Often Jesus’s words seem perversely contrary to sense. Take, for example, his central bit of advice in our Gospel passage for today: “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him renounce himself and take up his cross, and follow me.