|Hell - No, We Won't Go!|
|Written by Michael Fones|
|Sunday, 15 April 2007 06:23|
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." Mt. 7:13-14.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day in which we celebrate the unfathomable mercy that God has for us. Yet as I witness the zeal of the young students here at the Evangelical Catholic Institute, and as I pray the last day of the Divine Mercy Novena, I am struck by a thought.
We Catholics act as though Heaven is the default destination of our souls, and that Hell (if it exists at all, we think) is reserved for really, really evil people: genocidal dictators, unrepentant mass murderers, and, one would suspect reading some Catholic blogs, people who play the guitar at Mass. You have to try really hard to get there, because God's mercy and love is so great. We forget, of course, that in God justice and mercy meet and embrace and are inseparable. Yet in Dante's vision of Hell, the deepest abyss isn't filled with the people we imagine. It's reserved for traitors and liars! I know I have betrayed friends and although I belong to an Order whose motto is truth, I haven't yet broken the habit of lying. In this day and age, lying seems more like a way of life than the road to perdition.
But the last day of the Divine Mercy novena focuses its prayer on a surprising group - lukewarm Christians; "tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing (at the Garden of Gethsemane)" [Divine Mercy Novena] It seems ridiculous that Hell might await Catholics who are lukewarm, who show up for the sacraments but don't cooperate with the grace offered in them and thus aren't transformed by them. Could Hell really await people who have given up hope in or never even seriously desired a loving, living relationship with the Lord? If that were the case, why then, Hell would be a real possibility for me!
Would it benefit my own soul to consider that Hell - separation from God for eternity - might be my default destination if I am only mildly interested in a relationship with God in this life? Is going through life concerned primarily about my own success, my own likes and dislikes, my own goals, pursuing my own interests and pleasures a betrayal of my baptism? Does it make me a liar every time I claim to be a Christian?
I don't want to be someone who clings to religious things because of a fear of Hell. I hope to be someone who appreciates the Divine Mercy - the unmerited love that is offered to me by God - and responds joyfully, wholeheartedly, enthusiastically and selflessly. But I'm not there, yet, so maybe the reality of Hell as a possibility makes me ask for the grace of conversion with a bit more fervor and a bit more insistently.
P.S. I was really tempted to label this post under "global warming."