The question of who is in hell and who might be heading there comes up quite often. It seems that many people would prefer to believe either that all are saved, or that hell doesn’t exist. Jesus made a big deal of hell so I tend to think He may have had some genuine concerns about us ending up there. He certainly gave a lot of warnings to try and persuade us not to go there.
The undermining of the doctrine of hell seems to be a way to make the downward slope smoother and more attractive. Don’t go there! God gives us free will. We are supposed to choose to do good. If we create hell on earth for those around us, either by action, words, silence or neglect, then we aren’t going to have heaven later. We do take it with us.
Dante described hell pretty thoroughly and while we know it was a poem and not a vision, its a pretty profound poem. The ninth circle of hell is frozen. It’s as far away from the burning fire of God’s love as you can get. So loveless and cold; such justice demanded and no mercy.
I wonder if so many Christians give short shrift to hell because they don’t see it. They are nice people with nice friends and a nice church. Perhaps they have never seen (or have managed to ignore) the depravity and abuse that many people have been subjected to. I suspect that like Dives they can step past Lazarus at the gate and fail to notice., or they put some coins in a charity box and think that’ll do.
Many of the saints have seen hell. I think sometimes Catholics put far too much emphasis on “private revelation is not binding on the faithful” and use it as an excuse not to see what God is saying to us. Private revelation doesn’t add to revealed truth but it’s a good reminder and I’m sure God wouldn’t bother if we didn’t need the reminders so often. The list of saints and blesseds who have reported their visions of hell is very very long indeed. None of them saw it empty. St Teresa of Avila was shown the place in hell Satan had ready for her. She learned he really does hate each one of us that much.
St Faustina was told that we are to seek His mercy. Those who refuse mercy to others and refuse to seek Christ’s mercy will be faced with Him as the just Judge. We need to pray for one another and take care of one another so we receive the mercy we need when the time comes.
It’s not easy to get to heaven, Jesus warns us that. He warns about it a lot so we should try and take note. He warned that being rich can be a real problem in getting to heaven; so we need to be generous with what we have and not horde. This doesn’t mean only giving away something we don’t need. It means giving away or sharing even what we might need if someone else needs it more.
The bottom line is that we are free children, not slaves or automatons. We get to choose whether we do things God’s way or our way. There are plenty of people making it very plain that they have no intention of spending eternity in the fire of God’s love. We can pray they change their minds but they choose where they spend eternity. We all do.
I can’t help wondering how many nice Christians are in hell through sheer apathy. They liked the idea of God and the social gathering on a Sunday but couldn’t be bothered to love Him or their neighbour if it meant doing more than being “nice”.
It’s too easy to think that if anyone is in hell it’s only the Hitler-Stalin-Judas types that have ended up there. “I haven’t murdered anyone,” they think, like the woman who had not been to Confession in 30 years and then said she hadn’t committed any sins.
Our Lady told the children of Fatima that far too many people end up in hell thanks to “sins of the flesh”. That is all those pelvic issues that people criticise the Church for caring about.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, how many of us can honestly say we haven’t done anything to mortally wound our souls, ever?
So hell is easy to get to. Be awake and don’t go there!