As I sit in my non-airconditioned house in the Northeast on the fourth day of a heat wave with 90 to 100-degree temperatures, I am reminded of hell. I don't know why though, I say facetiously. It is not something that is talked about much from the pulpit. It is similar to the topics of artificial contraception and tithing. "Don't want to offend anyone."
Nonetheless, hell is real, it still exists and the Catholic Church still has it on the books. These excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church will help us all to learn and/or remember what we learned way back when.
1033 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...Our Lord warns us that we shall 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." [Emphasis mine]
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.
1036 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...
1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":
Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.
1056 Following the example of Christ, the Church warns the faithful of the "sad and lamentable reality of eternal death" (GCD 69), also called "hell."
1057 Hell's principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.
If hell was better understood better, both by clergy and laity, and taught and learned more seriously, people might get a healthy fear of going to hell, and then they might do less evil, even on the venial level, which often leads to the mortal level.
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