Tag Archives: Hell

The definitive option for or against God — Hell

Learn a lesson from the Demons: A Follow up on the 1999 catechesis series on the reality of heaven, hell, and purgatory by Pope John Paul II. This installment: The Reality of Hell And The Danger of Damnation… [General Audience, Wednesday, 28 July 1999].

 “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’” (CCC n. 1033).

1. God is the infinitely good and merciful Father. But man, called to respond to him freely, can unfortunately choose to reject his love and forgiveness once and for all, thus separating himself for ever from joyful communion with him. It is precisely this tragic situation that Christian doctrine explains when it speaks of eternal damnation or hell. It is not a punishment imposed externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this life. The very dimension of unhappiness which this obscure condition brings can in a certain way be sensed in the light of some of the terrible experiences we have suffered which, as is commonly said, make life “hell”.

In a theological sense however, hell is something else: it is the ultimate consequence of sin itself, which turns against the person who committed it. It is the state of those who definitively reject the Father’s mercy, even at the last moment of their life.

Hell is a state of eternal damnation

2. To describe this reality Sacred Scripture uses a symbolical language which will gradually be explained. In the Old Testament the condition of the dead had not yet been fully disclosed by Revelation. Moreover it was thought that the dead were amassed in Sheol, a land of darkness (cf. Ez. 28:8; 31:14; Jb. 10:21f.; 38:17; Ps 30:10; 88:7, 13), a pit from which one cannot reascend (cf. Jb. 7:9), a place in which it is impossible to praise God (cf. Is 38:18; Ps 6:6).

The New Testament sheds new light on the condition of the dead, proclaiming above all that Christ by his Resurrection conquered death and extended his liberating power to the kingdom of the dead.

Redemption nevertheless remains an offer of salvation which it is up to people to accept freely. This is why they will all be judged “by what they [have done]” (Rv 20:13). By using images, the New Testament presents the place destined for evildoers as a fiery furnace, where people will “weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt 13:42; cf. 25:30, 41), or like Gehenna with its “unquenchable fire” (Mk 9:43). All this is narrated in the parable of the rich man, which explains that hell is a place of eternal suffering, with no possibility of return, nor of the alleviation of pain (cf. Lk. 16:19-3 1).

The Book of Revelation also figuratively portrays in a “pool of fire” those who exclude themselves from the book of life, thus meeting with a “second death” (Rv. 20:13f.). Whoever continues to be closed to the Gospel is therefore preparing for ‘eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thes 1:9).

3. The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather* than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy. This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the truths of faith on this subject: “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell'” (n. 1033).

“Eternal damnation”, therefore, is not attributed to God’s initiative because in his merciful love he can only desire the salvation of the beings he created. In reality, it is the creature who closes himself to his love. Damnation consists precisely in definitive separation from God, freely chosen by the human person and confirmed with death that seals his choice for ever. God’s judgement ratifies this state.

We are saved from going to hell by Jesus who conquered Satan

4. Christian faith teaches that in taking the risk of saying “yes” or “no”, which marks the human creature’s freedom, some have already said no. They are the spiritual creatures that rebelled against God’s love and are called demons (cf. Fourth Lateran Council, DS 800-801). What happened to them is a warning to us: it is a continuous call to avoid the tragedy which leads to sin and to conform our life to that of Jesus who lived his life with a “yes” to God.

Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it. The thought of hell — and even less the improper use of biblical images — must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the, Spirit of God who makes us cry “Abba, Father!” (Rm. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

This prospect, rich in hope, prevails in Christian proclamation. It is effectively reflected in the liturgical tradition of the Church, as the words of the Roman Canon attest: “Father, accept this offering from your whole family … save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen”.

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Words for these times: St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi – He wills to renew His spouse, the Church, by means of you ministers and principal members of that Church!

mm_pazzi

Letter 7 of St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi to the Most Illustrious Cardinals Who Are Assisting the Apostolic See

The humble handmaid of the slain Lamb and Word Made Flesh, Christ crucified; forced by sweet Truth and by the unity of the Most Holy Trinity, and in particular by her loving Spouse– I say that she is forced, and may you take note that I say forced– to make known to you something that is no less pleasing to God than it is useful for creatures, namely: that He wills to renew His spouse, the Church, by means of you ministers and principal members of that Church!

(…) Wherefore, on the part of sweet Truth, I invite you– I do not say, with human tongue; but if I could, I would invite you with angelic tongues– to cooperate in so grand and pleasing a work, of which I believe that you, because you are in the position that you are, profoundly comprehend the usefulness.

(…) The useful purpose of this work shows you its excellence, even though the beginning will appear difficult to you, as it certainly is. Wherefore it is imperative for you to strip yourselves completely of every earthly convenience and of all human respect, even though there are but few [who rank] above you. It is imperative, further, that you follow the Vicar of Christ, who holds the place of the glorious apostle Peter; and that you be most obedient to him, just as the other apostles were to Peter, though they were not less anxious for the salvation of peoples and of the human race than was the glorious Peter.

And if anyone should say to me that the apostles had belonged to the school of Christ when He was on earth, I tell you that you also are His apostles, because you continually handle His body and blood. And were you still to find an excuse from my charge, I tell you to look at those who have held the place of the apostles. Look at the glorious Father, St. Bonaventure; at the very learned and wise St. Jerome; and at the one who in our own time has left so great an example of holiness– and this you know better than I, because he must have talked and conversed with you; for I am speaking of the most blessed Cardinal Borromeo!

(…) It is imperative, moreover, that you be healthy members, if you wish to be able to help the Vicar of Christ on earth as is fitting. Oh, you must know that sometimes, because the members are sick, the head rests from its work; and sometimes the members rest because the head is sick! But this should not be; and I do not want to believe that either the head or the members are sick.

I do wish that you would perform the office of those most useful members, the hands, which both work and offer us food. So I would wish that my most blessed Fathers would do, namely, that they would accomplish in this work all that God will inspire them and move them to do, and then offer food to the head; for sometimes, in offering food in this way, they arouse the head and the whole body to take nourishment. Oh, how I would wish that you were most useful members of holy Church, by offering food to our head, the Vicar of Christ! And the food that you have to offer is to around him to put into execution the work, to speak thus, so desired by God. This food he must eat, since he must take no other food but that of doing the will of God. Then all the other members also will take this food, to the end that there will be one body, healthy and whole, and there will be no occasion to bewail infirmity. For this must be our glory, to lead souls to God!

(…) Oh, oh, that I have to say this word: Put on justice! But O sweet Truth, there is no holy justice in the holy Church; if there were this justice, there would be union with You! But there is a justice filled with every injustice. O Eternal Word, this justice does not exist; but people pay attention only to those things that are the honor of creatures. And those things that are to the honor of God people pretend, under the guise of mercy, not to see! Such mercy is not mercy, but a mercilessness that leads soulds to the last brink of hell!

[Most Reverend Fathers] please be willing to act towards your neighbors, the members of Christ, in this way, namely, with such mercy that God does not have to call it mercilessness. Persuade with love, yes, but in such a way that the vows made to God will not be left completely in oblivion! (…)

(…) Oh I do not doubt that if you will take you places at such a table and fix your eyes on Christ crucified, you will very willingly take this food and you will not be afraid to suffer in order to lead soulds to, as well as back to Him.

Please do not wish, please do not wish to become greater than Christ, your Head, Who said that the disciple must not be greater than the master not the servant greater than the lord. [Mt 10:24]. Remember also what the enamored Paul said, to wit, that we are not debtors to the flesh, no, but to the spirit; and that we ought to live according to the spirit, because he who lives according to the flesh dies. [Rom 8:12]. Please look at the Spirit to Whom we are debtors! (…)

We are debtors, then; but what is that debt? First to give ourselves to God; and then, according to our powers, to lead our neighbor to Him. He has given Himself to us and have given all His blood, in order to reddem us. What else then must the creature do, who is debtor to this blood, but restore souls redeemed by this blood. Please note, please not that I say God has given His only-begotten Son, and the only begotten Son has given all His blood for creatures! How can those who take this blood, and can give it to others, act in such a way that they do not bring to God the souls redeemed by this blood? How can they bear to have a soul adorned with the blood of God go into hell and be deprived of that same God?

I do not doubt at all that if you will be completely despoiled of yourselves and put on sweet Truth, you will follow in His footsteps, which were made only, only to bring back the one lost sheep and to place it … where my God, where, my God? On His own shoulders! So also must you take the lost sheep of so many souls and place it on your own shoulders! And how are you to place it on your own shoulders? By accepting your labors and nourishing yourself on them; further, by nourishing your sheep with your own labors, I mean, with the word of God and the example of your life. And if you have this desire– as I want to presume you have, in regard to this work– of reuniting His consecrated christs, those especially, I mean, who are gathered together in religious families and also of reuniting His disunified spouses, and if you have the desire to make them observe their vows and despoil themselves of everything that is under God, it is imperative that you despoil yourselves first, inasmuch as example moves more than words. For, as the first Truth, the Word Made Flesh, said, it is not enough to say “Lord, Lord!” [Mt 7:21]. No, it is not enough!

Oh, grow in love a little; and come, in thirst, in zeal and in desire, so bring back these sheep [so to call them], these souls redeemed by the precious blood of the slain Lamb– and to reunite these members to their Head, Christ, so that they can sing with David “The children of your servants shall sit upon thy throne! “[Ps 131:12]

(…) please, please let this blood influence you in such a way that you may bring to the highest perfection this so important work of bringing back so many lost souls, all adorned with this most precious blood that was shed by the slain Lamb, the Word Made Flesh and my most beloved Spouse! (…)

Please do not look at the labors, but at the rewards, which I tell you will be great. And may that which the enamored Paul says always remain in your mind, namely, that although all indeed run, only one receives the prize [I Cor 9:24]. And your prize must be to lead souls back to God. Run, therefore, run! And in what way have you to run! In the ways of charity, because that entire work has to be done and conducted through love and with love. And if you will proceed in such a way, this so great and pleasing work of God will be conducted with love, and the beautiful and well-formed body of holy Church will be reunited and reformed. (…)

From our Monastery of Saint Mary of the Angels near Saint Fredian’s, August 3, 1586.

The humble handmaid of the Word Made Flesh

Sister Mary Magdalen de Pazzi

from:

La rinnovazione della Chiesa

Lettere dettate in estasi

Città Nuova – Edizioni O.C.D.

© 1986

ISBN 88-311-4804-4