Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hell is Real. People Go There. Don't Let it Be You.

Taken from Quinn Dombrowski's Flickr

Listen to my homily for today:

If you have trouble listening, click here.

Jesus Christ teaches us about hell.  Hell is Real.  It is a place where people go who have unrepented mortal sin on their conscience when they die.  Jesus mentioned it over 70 times in the gospels, and the New Testament mentioned it another 92 times.  The Old Testament referred to it 60 times.  It is also is a dogma of our Catholic faith, which is the highest certitude of divine revelation, witnessed in the words of Jesus, "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall never pass away."  It was taught by the Council of Lyons (DS 457): "if anyone without repentance dies in mortal sin, without a doubt he is tortured forever by the flames of eternal hell."  The Second Vatican Council and every Pope in the past century reaffirmed this age old teaching of Christ.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1035:
1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

Yet why do people not acknowledge the existence of hell?  They say a loving God would not allow eternal torments.  However if it is love, it must be free, and therefore the possibility of not choosing love must needs be part of it.  If it weren't a free gift of one's self to love the other, it would be automation or instinct, not the decision of a dignified and rational creature to love in return the Lord who had infinitely loved.

We should take heart in the fact that truly, there is only one sin that is unforgivable.  It is the one sin every one in hell has committed and the one sin everyone in heaven has not committed.  It is impenitence, that is, the only sin God doesn't choose to forgive is if the person doesn't want his forgiveness.  GOD CAN FORGIVE EVERY SIN, and he does.  This is why perhaps we will be quite surprised to see some people in heaven who we might have thought do not belong there, because quite simply, they repented.

There are two ways we can choose to not be forgiven.  First we presume forgiveness and therefore do not think ourselves in need of God's mercy and become unwilling to admit our fault.  This kind of arrogance or willful ignorance is very common today.  Pope Pius XII and Blessed Pope John Paul II called it the "loss of the sense of sin" (Reconciliation and Penance, 18):

"Finally the sense of sin disappears when-as can happen in the education of youth, in the mass media and even in education within the family-it is wrongly identified with a morbid feeling of guilt or with the mere transgression of legal norms and precepts. 
"The loss of the sense of sin is thus a form or consequence of the denial of God: not only in the form of atheism but also in the form of secularism. If sin is the breaking, off of one's filial relationship to God in order to situate one's life outside of obedience to him, then to sin is not merely to deny God. To sin is also to live as if he did not exist, to eliminate him from one's daily life."
We read in the psalm for today:
From presumption restrain your servant;let it not rule over me.Then shall I be blameless and innocentof serious sin. 
The other way we can refuse the mercy of God is by despairing of it.  This is really a kind of cloaked pride, or what I like to call wounded pride - belief that you simply are not lovable and forgivable by God, but this is not what God says.  The Cross and Resurrection of Christ makes clear, especially the ugliness of his torments, that sin is horrible but forgiven in Christ.  To refuse this is to refuse Christ.


Very simply put (according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1857):
1. It's Bad  (sin whose object is grave matter)
2. You know it. (full knowledge)
3. You do it. (deliberate consent)
So if you are serious about going to heaven try this: go to confession pretending that you will meet your death after absolution.  Leave nothing out.  Confess your sins in kind and number.  Pull each act out by the root by accusing yourself of each act, renouncing each one singularly.

So how can we attain eternal life and avoid hell?  First of all, DON"T WORRY.  Well at least don't worry needlessly.  A little healthy fear of the Lord could actually save you.  But to show you how willing God is to save your soul let us talk about the 5 P's, the five point plan to get you upstairs with God:

PRECEPTS- When the rich young man approached Jesus, who is a kind of analogy for each of us, he asked the Lord, "Good teacher how may I attain life everlasting."  Jesus' reply was certain and simple: "FOLLOW THE COMMANDMENTS."  We don't decide what is good and evil and are not the arbiter of morality.  God is.  Eve believed the liar when he told her that she could decide for herself what was right and wrong and each sin committed since has a trace of this denial in it.  Just as hell exists whether we like it or not and believe it or not, so does grave moral evil.  If we follow the commandments, Jesus tells us that we will attain life everlasting.

PARDON- We pray often, "forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us."  This means that God's pardon of us has been made conditional upon our pardon of others.  Christ's teaching is clear here (Luke 6:36-38):
Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful.  "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.  Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."
So there is of course a very real and eternal significance in forgiving, and it is clear that our eternal salvation depends on it.  There are accounts of people being dragged to hell because they couldn't forgive their family members.  Don't let that be you.  FORGIVE!

THE POOR- Easy.  You feed the poor you feed Jesus in disguise and you go to be with the one you served in disguise.  You don't feed the poor you feed the disguise of the devil in the disguise of your fattened excuses and you go with him and his fallen angels for all eternity.  Need we say more?  Blessed Mother Teresa said that we will be surprised how many who do not know Christ will be in heaven because they encountered him in the sick and suffering here below and served him unknowingly.  In Matthew 25:41-46 we read:
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
PRAYER- The greatest prayer is of course the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the other Sacraments.  These are not called the Sacraments of Salvation for no reason!  Jesus tells us in the Eucharist (John 6:54): "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day."  Every time we approach the banquet of the Lord we accept the foretaste of heaven, the pledge of future glory.  The other powerful prayer is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  For here we approach the very tribunal of mercy to prepare us for the tribunal of justice.  We avail ourselves of the pardon of which Jesus spoke at the words of instituting this beautiful mystery (John 20:23): "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  The other great prayer is the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick in which the apostle St James spoke about (James 5:14-15):
Is anyone among you sick?  He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.
I don't know how many times I have held the hand of a dying man and offered him this beautiful gift and only moments later he died being forgiven his sins, strengthened in Christ, and prepared for crossing through that very paper thin veil we call death that is the barrier between this life and the next to meet the Lord.  Another important gift here is called the APOSTOLIC PARDON.  Ask for this for the dying from the priests of the Church.  It is not only the full remission of sins but any temporal punishment due to sin.  It is a special plenary indulgence reserved for the dying to absolve them not only of their sins but any time in purgatory due to the residue of sin after death.  Here is the formula I pray with the dying frequently that gives them this supreme gift:
By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit."
Besides the Sacraments, we should spend time in prayer.  Prayer is to the Christian as breathing is to the soul.  We need to "pray unceasingly" not only for the salvation of our own soul but also the souls of all.  St Alphonsius di Ligouri said, "The one who prays will most certainly save his soul.  The man who does not will most certainly lose it."  St John Chrysostom simply said, "Prayer is necessary for the salvation of our soul."

HIS PROMISES - God has given us many promises to save our souls in the Scriptures:
Mark 16:16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.John 3:16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
There are also the wonderful promises in the life of the Church.  Our Lady made 15 promises to those who recite the rosary:
5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the Light of God and the plenitude of His Graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the Merits of the Saints in Paradise.
Ok it's pretty clear that you should become devoted to the Rosary if you want to live in life everlasting. There are also the promises of the 9 First Fridays given to St Margaret Mary Alaquoque:
"I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment."
Then there is also the Divine Mercy Feast Jesus gave us to secure our salvation:

“I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open.  The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment."
It is clear that God wants us upstairs.  He wants to save us all.  Yet there is also a backdoor to heaven.  It's name is Mary.  We pray in the Hail Mary, "Pray for us now, and at the hour of our death."  Those who approach Our Lady will most certainly obtain a very powerful advocate for the tribunal of justice.  A priest died, Fr Steven Sheier and found himself before the judgment seat of God:
At the end of his judgment, his sentence from Jesus was hell. Fr. Scheier said “yes” as that was the only logical thing he deserved. At that moment, however, he heard a woman say, “Son, will you please spare his life and his eternal soul?” The Lord replied, “Mother, he’s been a priest for twelve years for himself and not for me, let him reap the punishment he deserves.” “But Son,” she said, “if we give him special graces and strengths then let’s see if he bears fruit; if not, your will be done.” There was very short pause, after which Jesus said, “Mother, he’s yours.”
It is clear that even priests need the intercession of the Holy Mother of God to save their souls.  Let us ask her to obtain this grace for ourselves and for all.

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