Fr. P. Rosari
Do you believe in Hell? Think about it for a moment first... Do you really, truly believe in Hell?
It is a subject not spoken of frequently in these days, but God does not give each generation a new set of doctrines or a new bible. Further, it is important for us to reflect on this truth in order to realize how grave sin is. Is it a comfortable subject? No. But who said that everything in Religion is meant to be comforting?
A salutary fear of damnation is necessary in order for us to avoid sin (Mark 9:43). How many saints are now in Heaven because they meditated on the awful truth of Hell? We can be sure that there are quite a few.
In the end, we shall either go to Heaven or to Hell (Rev. 20:12-15). The choice is ours, we make that choice by our own actions. Let us then briefly consider the nature of Hell.
Hell exists, hell is a Roman Catholic dogma and one cannot say he's a Catholic if he does not believe in hell ... Hell is eternal (Matt. 25:41). And what will it be like?
Think of all the diseases in the world; those that affect the eyes, the teeth, the chest, the neck. To all these diseases of the body add the mental torments of Hell: despair, gloom, sadness, hatred...
And to these continuos torments, add the lack of sympathy from others. No-one will care, everyone in Hell will be full of hatred for the others. Not a moment of comfort. There is no rest, there is no sleep... every moment is an agony from which there is no escape--- the worst of torments; and this for eternity. St. Anthony Mary Claret writes:
"The sensation of pain in hell is essentially very dreadful. Picture yourself, my soul, on a dark night on the summit of a high mountain. Beneath you is a deep valley, and the earth opens so that with your gaze you can see hell in the cavity of it. Picture it as a prison situated in the center of the earth, many leagues down, all full of fire, hemmed in so impenetrably that for all eternity not even the smoke can escape.
In this prison the damned are packed so tightly one on the other like bricks in a kiln....Consider the quality of the fire in which they burn. First, the fire is all-extensive and tortures the whole body and the whole soul. A damned person lies in hell forever in the same spot which he was assigned by divine justice, without being able to move, as a prisoner in stocks. The fire in which he is totally enveloped, as a fish in water, burns around him, on his left, his right, above and below (Mt 18:8). His head, his breast, his shoulders, his arms, his hands, and his feet are all penetrated with fire, so that he completely resembles a glowing hot piece of iron which has just been withdrawn from an oven. The roof beneath which the damned person dwells is fire; the food he takes is fire; the drink he tastes is fire; the air he breathes is fire; whatever he sees and touches is all fire (Mark 9:42).
But this fire is not merely outside him; it also passes within the condemned person. It penetrates his brain, his teeth, his tongue, his throat, his liver, his lungs, his bowels, his belly his heart, his veins, his nerves, his bones, even to the marrow, and even his blood... A most terrible thing about hell is its duration (Mat 3:12) . The condemned person loses God and loses Him for all eternity. Now, what is eternity? Eternity never ends. This is the truth that has made even the great saints tremble. It is an essential misfortune of hell that everything will be without relief, without remedy, without interruption, without end, eternal."
The pain of loss, the consequence of final impenitence, consists in an immense void which will never be filled, in an eternal contradiction which is the fruit of the hatred of God, in despair, in perpetual remorse without repentance, in hate of one's neighbor, in envy, in a grudge against God which is expressed by blasphemy.
Perpetual remorse comes from the voice of conscience, which repeats that they refused to listen while there was yet time. They cannot indeed erase from their mind the first principles of the moral order, a distinction between good and evil. But conscience recalls sin after sin: "I was hungry, and you gave Me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me not to drink."
Eternally rebellious against everything, they long for annihilation, not in itself, but as cessation of suffering. In this sense Jesus says of Judas: "It were better for him if that man had not been born."
No sin shall be without its punishment. The evil men do must be atoned for either in this world by penance or in the world to come in purgatory or hell, according as the sin that stains the soul, and is not repented of, is mortal or venial, and merits eternal or temporal punishment.
All those who die in personal mortal sin, as enemies of God, and unworthy of eternal life, will be severely punished by God after death. A mortal sin is a transgression of the moral law in a serious matter, committed with clear advertence to the grievous nature of the act and with full deliberation and consent on the part of the will. It is called mortal since it deprives the soul of its supernatural life of sanctifying grace. It deserves eternal punishment (2 Th 1:9), since the offence is a deliberate act of rebellion against the infinite majesty of God .
A man who dies in this state is turned away from God. After death, such a sin cannot be remitted. The soul of the sinner who freely and definitively has turned away from God stays eternally in that state.
God has provided a remedy for sin and manifested His love and goodness in the face of man's ingratitude by the Incarnation of His Divine Son ; by the institution of His Church to guide men and interpret to them His law, and administer to them the sacraments, seven channels of grace, which, rightly used, furnish an adequate remedy for sin and a means to union with God in heaven, which is the end of His law.
We are fallen creatures, and our spiritual life on earth is a warfare. Sin is our enemy, and while of our own strength we cannot avoid sin, with God's grace we can. If we but place no obstacle to the workings of grace we can avoid all deliberate sin. If we have the misfortune to sin, and seek God's grace and pardon with a contrite and humble heart, He will not repel us.
While some would have preferred to read about a more comfortable topic, the dogma of Hell is important to consider so as to make us realize that in the end there are only two choices-- Heaven or Hell; and they are both for eternity.
We need not have an excessive fear about the state of our soul, but a healthy fear shall help keep us from sin, for "the beginning of wisdom, is the Fear of the Lord" (Eccl 1:16).
AN ACT OF SORROW
My GOD, I detest all the sins of my life. I am sorry for them, because they have offended Thee, my GOD, who art so good. I resolve never to commit sin anymore. My good GOD, pity me, have mercy on me, forgive me, Amen.
- CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS -