I knew I was going to love Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey the second they killed off the main characters. Not a hoax, not an imaginary tale, just Bill & Ted plunging to their deaths and going straight to Hell. C‘mon, how many movies have the cojones to snuff their heroes in the first reel? And once they arrive in the hot spot, the fun really begins, like in the sequence where poor Ted "Theodore" Logan must face the consequences for breaking the eighth commandment on Easter morning by confronting a demonic Peter Cottontail as it hippity hops along the bunny trails of Gehenna.
Of course, the movie couldn’t just let its protagonists stay in Hell without a possible way out. Otherwise Bill & Ted would miss out on the opportunity to sneak past St. Peter, borrow a couple of Martians from God, and knock the blocks off their evil robot counterparts in time to play at the big talent show. All the pair had to do to escape eternal imprisonment was beat the Grim Reaper in a contest. That sounds difficult, but in the world of Bill & Ted all it really takes to accomplish that is a couple of games of Clue and Battleship plus some mad skills at Twister.
If only the folks stuck in the underworld before the crucifixion had it that easy, huh? Alas, for those souls, a bit more divine assistance was needed to defeat Death and be set free. As the Catechism explains, “Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God… Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him… The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption. Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."
It’s nice to remember, as we hear this week’s readings describe how the Disciples were confused and debating the absence of their Lord, that Jesus himself was actually quite busy. Once again, it just drives home the message that God is always active, even in those times when we think He’s gone.