Temperature in Hell Turned Down?
JUST LAST WEEK, a parishioner approached
me after mass and earnestly declared
hell does not exist any more. The Pope
so, he claimed. It was on the paper.
Sure enough, when I checked the local
there it was .... "After decades
minor and major wrongdoings, they have
found out that hell does not exist....".
Even on the local TV, there was a coverage
It may be the millennium bug. Without
however, the Pope again hit the imagination
of the media. On these last three successive
Wednesdays, the Pope spoke of heaven,
and purgatory in his usual General
at the Vatican. This sparked great
in the international media.
Between Terror and Silence
What did the Pope really say? The Pope
what the Church has always taught and
we, perhaps, have been afraid to speak
Vittorio Messori, the Italian writer
interviewed the Pontiff for his best-seller,
"Crossing The Threshold of Hope,"
affirms that if the Pope's teaching
so much news, some of the blame belongs
us priests, who seem to remain silent
what is essential: eternal life.
"Hell is not a punishment from
from outside," affirms calmly
"but the result of positions taken
man already in this life...."
God respects our decisions. He is not
authoritarian despot, a Hitler-like
The African theologian, Saint Augustine,
put it beautifully in his famous phrase,
'Although God created you without you,
cannot save you without you.' If one
to close Himself to God's love and
himself forever from joyful communion
Him, God respects him. This is hell.
"God is not waiting with a gun
someone who commits a sin to Hell,"
the Jesuit publication Civilta Cattolica
comments in one of its recent editorials.
Human freedom is precisely what explains
the existence of heaven and hell.
"God does not inflict eternal
on man," continues the Jesuit
"man inflicts it on himself by
the salvation God offers. God is always
forever only love, and his activity
and forever saving ... God however
want to compel anyone to love him,
love cannot be forced. But by rejecting
grace, man condemns himself to the
of God, which is exactly what Hell
"God is absolutely opposed to
condemnation, and He uses all his omnipotence
to prevent a person from being eternally
lost; but, having created the human
free, and wanting him to freely choose
own destiny -- because only free choices
are worthy of man -- God respects human
No Doctrinal Changes
Then the Pope goes to this other point
provoked all this hype. "More
place, Hell is the state of the one
and finally removes himself from God,
source of life and joy."
A state not a place. Just an illustration.
Because of my constant travels, I sometimes
had to live in repulsive, shabby dwellings.
That is a place. A state is different.
state is a condition or mode of mental
emotional being. Your wife has just
you and you feel devastated - this
is a state;
your son has just died in a car accident
and you feel shattered - this is a
Hell is the state of mind, where the
lives eternally the despair of not
"Improper use of Biblical pictures
not create psychosis or anxiety",
the Pope. It is not a question of cave-like
rooms with hot coals for floors and
blasts for washbasins. Or ugly demons
pitchforks and nasty smell. We have
ourselves in some way but these images
try to portray an emotional and mental
which is beyond graphic description.
which is very real.
The same thing about heaven. Paradise
not a place where one can fly to and
the angels play instruments. We must
let the imagination run wild!
"Painters have shattered the heavens
magnifying terrestrial joys, pure skies,
green fields, peaceful people,"
Carlo Molari, leading theologian at
Urban University of Rome, notes.
Paradise is the fullness of an intimate
with God. Our body will reach an unheard
of dimension, "like the fetus,
fully flowers at birth," Professor
Linked with paradise there is Purgatory.
Having reviewed rapidly the Scriptural
of purgatory, the Pope explained how
those who are open to God, but in an
way, the road to perfect happiness
purification, which the Church's faith
through the doctrine of Purgatory."
Purgatory is not invention of Bishops
Neither is it a second chance to change
destiny. A time arrives in the life
person when what I am, I shall continue
be forever. Whereas in life I can change
for better or worse, be converted or
at a certain point this way of living
it is the leap to eternity. I go where
will to go.
A mysterious leap and, in certain aspects,
terrifying. But reassuring, knowing
love for us sinners.
That is why, rather than be concerned
describing and analyzing ultimate realities,
perhaps it would be better if we prepare
ourselves for our final destiny. Life
meaning only if it flowers itself into
We have a choice to do with our lives.
can either throw it away for ever.
can enjoy it eternally. Starting now.
Whoever loves God is already in Heaven.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright