Adult Faith Formation Column for the Sunday Bulletin of St. Michael Parish, Livermore, California

This weekly column is a short meditation on the Bible readings of the Sunday Mass. The meditations are direct quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals, writings of the Saints, and similar orthodox sources.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Taking Gehenna Seriously

   We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him.  But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves:  "He who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."  Our Lord warns us that we shell be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.  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".

   Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna," of "the unquenchable fire"
reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.  Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather ... all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation:  "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

   The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny.  They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion:  "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few"....

                       -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                           paragraphs 1033, 1034, 1036

Open our hearts, O Lord,
and enlighten us
by the grace of the Holy Spirit
that we may seek
what is pleasing to your will
and so order our lives
according to your commandments
that we may be found worthy
to enter your unending joys
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
       -- Venerable Bede (673-735 AD)

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