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Arlington Catholic Herald

Fear hell
Fr. Jerry Pokorsky

The church teaches that those who die in the state of mortal sin are punished in hell. They are deprived of the vision of God and suffer dreadful torments. The pains of hell will last for all eternity. “And the smoke of their torments goes up for ever and ever; and they rest neither day nor night” (Rv 14:11). The fear of hell should urge us to lead a good life because nothing on earth is worth even one moment in hell.

There is no shortage of references to the reality of hell in the Gospel. In this Sunday’s Gospel Christ calls hell an “unquenchable fire” suggesting the pains of hell have the sensation of burning, the greatest pain that man can conceive. Christ warns, “It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna” (Mt 18:8). Instead of God and the angels and saints, sinners in hell have devils and loathsome criminals for eternal companions. Hell contains nothing good. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). But to a thoroughly modern and secular culture, hell is merely a medieval superstition.

Or is it?

Although pop culture traditionally has delighted in relatively harmless horror stories and films (from Alfred Hitchcock films to Edgar Allen Poe short stories), in recent decades there has been an ever-increasing demand for the macabre, especially in film (and now video games). Curiously the trend coincides with a secular — even atheistic — emergence. As religion is displaced with secular superstitions, especially among cultural elites (examples left to readers), the younger generation fills the void with a fascination with the ghastly and the occult.

Perhaps this should not be surprising. Most horror themes are variations of the vampire motif: The horrible creature lurking in swamps or in attics or under beds is at once eternally dead, yet alive and very dangerous to the living (mostly to adolescents). Cultural observers and film critics report on the recent drastic descent in filmmaking toward stories of absolute horror with no redemption — a very good definition of hell. Apparently the void left by disbelief in hell is filled with cultural versions of hell that, ironically, fit neatly into scriptural citations. The difference is, of course, after the adrenalin wears off, the adolescent dodges eternal condemnation and returns to the safety of the tedious routines of life.

But the “tedious routines” of life are precisely where salvation and condemnation truly are determined. Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor was a master of this theme. In her short story “Judgment Day,” an elderly Southerner is spending his final days with his daughter far away from his Georgia homeland. According to O’Connor’s inimitable style, the story unfolds in a most depressing way, but upon reflection — with a Catholic faith never mentioned in the story but necessarily presumed — reveals her marvelous insight and optimism.

In a series of flashbacks she portrays the man as a racist who, over time and with the interplay of everyday human relationships, not only resists a youthful impulse to kill because of fear of God’s judgment, but learns to be genuinely happy with his friends, white as well as black. Uprooted by failing health to live with his daughter in her New York City flat, he aches to return to be with his old friends. He makes futile plans to escape the loneliness of the city where people, protecting their privacy (and vices) do not even exchange glances. Instead, he takes a benign interest in establishing, according to his lifelong pattern, a friendship with a neighbor. The neighbor, probably trafficking prostitutes, sees the normal personal interest of the old man as a risk, and he kills him. The story ends with the daughter restless, attaining peace only after she exhumes the body of her father and buries him in his “heavenly” Southern homeland amidst his friends and kin.

The trajectory of Flannery O’Connor’s thought seems to suggest love is not instantaneous, nor does it come without effort. Love is the fruit of grace unleashed in the give-and-take of human relationships. Undoubtedly as a Catholic she would trace that grace to one’s relationship with Christ Himself. Hence, the consuming fires of hell are those of eternally unsatisfying selfishness, without healthy human relationships and without love.

Hell is horrifying because hell, in the final analysis, is boring. In hell you can have as much beer as you want, as much booze as you want, as much cocaine as you want, as many gay and/or straight sexual experiences as you want, as many tattoos as you want, as much money in dollars, euros, yen or gold bullion as you want. In hell you can have whatever you want, whenever you want it, in whatever quantity you want it — provided it is without love.

Indeed, nothing on earth is worth even one moment in hell.

Fr. Pokorsky is pastor of St. Michael Parish in Annandale.

18 posted on 09/29/2012 10:02:24 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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The Work of God

 The reality of Hell Catholic Gospels - Homilies - Matthew, Luke, Mark, John - Inspirations of the Holy Spirit

Year B

 -  26th Sunday in ordinary time

The reality of Hell

The reality of Hell Catholic Gospels - Matthew, Luke, Mark, John - Inspirations of the Holy Spirit Mark 9:37-42, 44, 46-47

Mark 9:37-42, 44, 46-47
37 John answered him, saying: Master, we saw one casting out devils in your name, one who does not follow us, and we forbade him.
38 But Jesus said: Do not forbid him. For there is no man that does a miracle in my name, and can soon speak ill of me.
39 For he that is not against you, is for you.
40 For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in my name, because you belong to Christ: amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.
41 And whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me; it would be better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he was cast into the sea.
42 And if your hand scandalizes you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life, maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire:
44 And if your foot scandalizes thee, cut it off. It is better for you to enter lame into life everlasting, than having two feet, to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire:
46 And if your eye scandalizes you, pluck it out. It is better for you with one eye to enter into the kingdom of God, than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire:
47 Where the worm does not die, and the fire is not extinguished.

Inspiration of the Holy Spirit - From the Sacred Heart of Jesus

26th Sunday in ordinary time - The reality of Hell How powerful is my name, that even those who were not united to us, but who believed with faith; had the power against the devil. In reality when my name is mentioned, I come immediately to the one who calls me, this is why he who seeks me finds me and I allow him to know me for his own good.

For every activity that you have, invoke my name and allow me to share my presence with you, nothing glorifies me more than to be desired in your lives. Something that I dislike is spiritual jealousy, since many who are close to me believe that they have the right to judge and stop others from coming close to me also. My house is the house of everyone, I do not judge by appearances, I look in the heart of every human being and I see the potential of repentance in each one. My desire for all is that they stay away from evil and come to me, I take care of giving them the transformation to holiness.

Those who work for my Kingdom will be rewarded eternally, since my money is not of this world, and my fortune enriches all those who desire me and make efforts to live holy lives bearing my light to the kingdom of darkness. Those who because of pride fall into error; become the enmity that tries to destroy the efforts of my elected, poor for them if they don’t come to reason and listen to my call.

My Mercy goes beyond the understanding of the human mind, my benevolence goes even to the enemies of my Kingdom, the opportunity to be with me remains open to everyone and the only petition that I make is that you leave your evil ways behind, repent and begin to walk in my way.

I have said, if your hand, your eye or your foot are occasions for sin, cut them off, because it is better to enter heaven without one eye, or one hand or one foot that to be whole but thrown into hell to suffer by the worm that never dies and the fire that is never extinguished. Here I am putting emphasis in the reality of hell, the place of chastisement for all the rebels who do evil and despise my celestial offering. I don’t mean that someone should mutilate his body in order to punish himself; I am exaggerating the mortification that should be taken to avoid hell.

Any good thing from this world requires many sacrifices to be obtained. This is why I want to tell you that it is worth to deny oneself, to take up the cross and to mortify oneself as necessary in order to obtain the riches of eternal life.

Author: Joseph of Jesus and Mary

19 posted on 09/29/2012 10:07:23 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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