Cpl. Walter 'Radar' O'Reilly: Oh - hell!
Captain B.J. Hunnicut: What?
Cpl. Walter 'Radar' O'Reilly: You heard me! H-e-double toothpicks!
The target market of this meditation, if you will, is not the faithful believer but the obstinate, wrathful sinner who should know that he, even if he makes himself our enemy, is loved and that he needs to realize his evil actions are putting his soul in peril. Indeed, the very topic of this post should shock him, like a defibrillator that is used to restart a heart that has ceased to beat in sympathy for others, a heart that is indifferent to suffering, a heart in the chest of a man whose actions cause others intense suffering. Can you think of such a heart these days?
In the event such a deadened heart can not be restarted, it may be that evil's grasp is so complete that hell for that person has already begun. The hell that begins after death should come as little surprise, then, for that person who has made life on earth a living hell for others. We can only hope that in that moment preceding his final judgement, he will repent and avoid the torments of an everlasting hell. May God have mercy on such a man.
A reading from an ancient health manual, so-to-speak, begins this meditation on one of the four last things (CCC 1020-1041).
The way of death,... is this: It is evil and accursed—murders, adulteries, lust, illicit sex, thefts, idolatries, magical arts, sorceries, robberies, false testimonies, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness—those who do not fear God.
The way of death is the way of those who persecute the good, hate the truth, love lies, and do not understand the reward for righteousness. They do not cleave to good or righteous judgment; they do not watch for what is good, but for what is evil. They are strangers to meekness and patience, loving vanities, pursuing revenge, without pity for the needy and oppressed. They do not know their Creator; they are murderers of children, destroyers of God's image. They turn away from those who are in need, making matters worse for those who are distressed. They are advocates for the rich, unjust judges of the poor. In a word, the way of death is full of those who are steeped in sin. Be delivered, children, from all of this!
For we must all be manifested before the judgement seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil.—2 Corinthians 5:10
Represent to yourself a dark city all burning and stinking with fire and brimstone. The damned are in the depth of hell within this woeful city, where they suffer unspeakable torments in all their senses and members. Consider above all the eternity of their pains, which above all things makes hell intolerable.—St. Francis de Sales.
Totus tremo atque horreo; ad memoriam istius regionis concussa sunt omnla ossa me.
I am filled with fear and trembling, and all my bones are shaken at the thought of that unhappy country of the damned.—St. Bernard.
I saw the torments of hell and those of purgatory; no words can describe them. Had poor mortals the faintest idea of them, they would suffer a thousand deaths rather than undergo the least of their torments during a single day.—St. Catherine of Siena.
But the wicked are like the raging sea, which cannot rest, and the waves thereof cast up dirt and mire. There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord God.—Isaiah 57:20-21
Before I go, and return no more, to a land that is dark and covered with the mist of death: a land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order, but everlasting horror dwelleth.—Job 10:21-22
Why do we believe there's a hell? Not because we're vindictive. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Why, then? Simply because we've been told, by Christ himself. There's a popular fallacy that Jesus spoke only comforting words and that the fear of hell began with Saint Paul. The textual truth is the opposite: Jesus uttered many "hell fire and damnation" sermons, while nearly all the passages that offer any hope to the universalist (who believe all men will be saved in the end) are from Paul.
Fear of hell is not a base motive. As George MacDonald says, "As long as there are wild beasts about, it is better to be afraid than secure." God's graciousness accepts even the "low" motive of fear of hell for salvation if that's the best we can muster. His arms are open to all prodigals. He is not high-minded, like some of his detractors. All's fair in love and war. And life is both.
Hell follows from two other doctrines: heaven and free will. If there is a heaven, there can be a not-heaven. And if there is free will, we can act on it and abuse it. Those who deny hell must also deny either heaven (as does Western secularism) or free will (as does Eastern pantheism).
Hell and heaven make life serious. Heaven without hell removes the bite from life's drama. C. S. Lewis once said that he never met a single person who had a lively faith in heaven without a similar belief in hell. The height of the mountain is measured by the depth of the valley, the greatness of salvation by the awfulness of the thing we're saved from.
—Dr. Peter Kreeft. Hell.
The way to avoid hell is to walk the path of life, to strive each day to be in communion with Jesus Christ and His Church, to pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit that helps one cooperate with God's grace and enables one to conform one's soul to the saving truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We, all of us, are called to a personal intimate communion with the Holy Trinity. Let us enter into this communion through the door Who is Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of all mankind, for it is through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, that we draw closer to the Father. Amen.
The way of life is this: First, you shall love God who made you. And second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you.
The meaning of these sayings is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the heathens do the same? But you should love those who hate you, and then you shall have no enemies.
Abstain from fleshly and bodily lusts: If someone strikes your right cheek, turn the other also, and be perfect. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two. If someone takes your cloak, give also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, don't ask for it back.—Didache, Chapter 1.