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제목 On the Fear of Hell (2016-09-11)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-09-12






On the Fear of Hell (2016-09-11)



My dear brethren,

St Paul warns us: “Be not seduced: Evil conversations corrupt good morals” . Recently, one of our faithful showed me an article in the local diocesan paper entitled “the fear of hell”, the gist of which was rather to take away the fear of hell from the heart of the faithful. Here is the first paragraph of that article:


“Hell is never a nasty surprise waiting for a basically happy person. Hell can only be the full-flowering of a pride and selfishness that have, through a long time, twisted a heart so thoroughly that it considers happiness as unhappiness and has an arrogant disdain for happy people. If you are essentially warm of heart this side of eternity, you need not fear that a nasty surprise awaits you on the other side because somewhere along the line, unknowingly, you missed the boat and your life went terribly wrong.”

(Of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia)  The other article of copied(catholic register)

 
In other words, Hell would be only for the most wicked ones, “with a thoroughly twisted heart” and would not be for the others, certainly not for anyone “essentially warm of heart”. Whether he obeys the Commandments would not matter, whether he has the true faith would not matter, whether he even cares for God or not would not matter! Well, this is simply not the teaching of the Catholic Church, this is not the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, this is not true at all! This is deceit, and it leads souls to the neglect of their duties and ultimately leads them… to hell.


God said to Ezekiel: “O son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and shalt tell it them from me. When I say to the wicked: O wicked man, thou shalt surely die: if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked man from his way: that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand. But if thou tell the wicked man, that he may be converted from his ways, and he be not converted from his way: he shall die in his iniquity: but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Bishops and priests are established in the New Testament also as “watchmen over the house of God” and it is their duty to warn the sinners of the danger in which they are because of their sins, dangers of hell fire! If they warn not the sinners, and rather make them comfortable in their sins, the sinners will die in their sins, but the unfaithful minister of the Lord shall be guilty of their damnation because they did not warn him.


St Augustine points out that he who warns does not want to hit: this is the very reason why he warns the other, because he wants the other person to avoid the danger. A hunter does not warn because he wants to hit; but a mother warns her child precisely because she does not want him to be hurt! Thus just after the passage above, God says to Ezekiel: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways: and why will you die, O house of Israel?” Thus the very warning of the menacing chastisement is the expression of the love of God that desires the conversion of the sinner.

 
St Paul characterises the wicked with these words: “There is no fear of God before their eyes”. On the contrary, the holy man Job is praised thus: “There was a man in the land of Hus, whose name was Job, and that man was simple and upright, and fearing God, and avoiding evil” (Job 1:1). The fear of the Lord is thus an essential element of our spiritual life, something necessary in order to go to Heaven. Even our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, was “filled with the Spirit of the fear of the Lord” (Is. 11:3), as Isaiah prophesised! Why is it so? Because it is one of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 110:10), as David sung in the psalms. In a beautiful passage, the holy man Job searches for wisdom thus: “Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?” he arrives at this conclusion: “God understandeth the way of it, and he knoweth the place thereof… and He said to man: Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil, is understanding”. Similarly the psalmist sings: “Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man that desireth life: who loveth to see good days? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps. 33:12-15).

 
It is not possible to be truly good without turning away from evil, without avoiding sin. Those who make no efforts to avoid sin, and calm their conscience under the pretext that they are “essentially warm of heart” simply deceive themselves and others. Our Lord said: “Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name?” (Mt. 7:22). They were “warm of heart” to the point of making miracles in the name of Jesus! Yet Jesus continues: “then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Mt. 7:23). Because they neglected to avoid sin, because they worked iniquity, they will be separated for ever from the Holy One, separate from God, that is, they will fall into Hell.


God is the Supreme Being, Supreme Goodness, Supreme Intelligence; when one searches for God – and the knowledge of God, that is true wisdom – necessarily one needs to “turn away from evil and do good”. It is illusory to think that one can approach to God without turning away from evil and doing good. And that is where a true fear of Hell can be very useful. St Thomas Aquinas tells us that “nothing is so efficient to remove men from evil and to induce them to do good than the fear and the love of God”. Many times in the Holy Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself uses this fear of hell to exhort sinners to cut off from sin, to cut off from the occasions of sin and thus get back on the right track to heaven: “And if thy hand scandalize thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life, maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire: Where there worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. And if thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off. It is better for thee to enter lame into life everlasting, than having two feet, to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out. It is better for thee with one eye to enter into the kingdom of God, than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire: Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished”.


Why does our Lord insists so much if not because this very insistence itself is useful for our salvation! In the whole of Holy Scriptures, the one who speaks the most about hell is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself! Because He is the Good Shepherd, and He knows that we are often straying sheep, and need to be brought back on the right track.


What is the truth about hell? What does the holy Catholic Church teach about hell? First that hell does exist: our Lord does not threaten as above with vain words, but with the truth. Hell does exist and it is not empty. Bad theologians such as Urs von Balthasar claimed that hell was empty. This is explicitly contrary to the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, contrary to the teaching of the Holy Doctors and of the Saints; this would empty the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and make a fool of Him. Indeed He said: “when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left”: there will be some people on the right and there will be some people on the left, otherwise the scene would have been very badly described


“Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:34-40). Beautiful words, beautiful reward, that ought to be pursued at all cost!


But “Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.” (Mt. 25:41-45). Frightful words, but our Lord is not a fool; He is not going to talk to nobody: hence there will be some to whom He will say these words! Hell is not empty.


Our Lord says: “The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 13:41-42). How could there “be weeping and gnashing of teeth” if there were no one to weep and gnash teeth? Hence Hell is not empty. They “that word iniquity” shall go there, unless they repent and change their life before.


Lastly the Church teaches that Hell will last for ever: “these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting” (Mt. 25:46). St Augustine and the Fathers point out that the everlasting duration of hell is put by our Lord Himself in parallel with the everlasting duration of heaven: if one denies the one, he is led to deny the other, or to empty the words of our Lord, who put the one in parallel with the other.


The fear of Hell is thus very useful to help us start on the right way to Heaven, but deterring us from the evil ways of sin. For many good souls, that fear is a strong help to put a clear-cut end to a life of sin, to cut off strongly and with no compromise with occasions of sin, to resists strongly to temptations especially temptations of the flesh. One does not go to heaven backward, away from hell: so the fear of hell alone is not sufficient; yet if one is tempted to turn away from God and go onto the path of sin, then hell is very useful. Open your eyes! See where you are going! If you don’t want to go to Hell, why do you do the things that lead to hell? Be logical with yourself! If you want to go to Heaven, do the things that lead to heaven, not the things that lead to hell! Thus if you are tempted to go astray, let the fear of hell keep you off, and help you strongly turn around back into the right direction, away from sin and back onto the path of virtue! And don’t say that you can always return to God after sin: St Augustine says that God did promise always to receive the repenting sinner, but He did not promise a tomorrow! Now is the time to return to God, not to offend Him! Truly, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 110:10).


Now the fear of hell is not only for the sinners, or those who are tempted. We find indeed in the history of the Saints that the fear of hell can be very profitable even for very innocent souls. St Theresa of Avila, of whom it is said that she never committed any mortal sin, had one day a vision of hell: she saw where she would go if she would continue on the path of tepidity on which she was: tepidity and venial sin is the slippery road that leads to mortal sin and thus to hell also! She wrote that she considered that vision as one of the greatest grace of her whole life: it gave her a real bolt, to stir herself back on the path of true fervour, and penance for her sanctification and the sanctification of many others. Think also of the three children of Fatima: Lucia, Francesco and Jacinta: 10, 9 and 7 years of age: they were very innocent. Yet our Lady herself showed them what hell was: “You have seen hell, where the poor sinners go…” and it was for these innocent children a very great grace that gave them a tremendous zeal for praying and making sacrifices for the conversion and salvation of souls!


As you can see, the true doctrine of the Church on hell is a great help in our spiritual life: it helps us to understand that “God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).


Some people object: but what about people who have never known God? The answer is simple: we are made by God and for God. “Thou hast made us for Thee, o Lord, and our heart is restless until it can rest in Thee”, says St Augustine. If one uses his intelligence, it is not difficult to reach the knowledge that there is a God, who created all things, etc. But many people do not want to hear about it, because they realise that God is also the supreme Legislator and that they should then obey His commandments, and they don’t want. Thus we read in the psalms: “The Lord hath looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there be any that understand and seek God” (Ps. 13:2). And he finds hardly one, as the psalmist continues: “They are all gone aside, they are become unprofitable together: there is none that doth good, no, not one… there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Ps. 13:3).


There are many who don’t care for God, who do not seek for the Lord, and who do not want to be bothered! These are not innocent; their ignorance is the fruit of their evil will, which loves the things of the earth and refuse any conversion. They are blinds and as the Gospel says: “they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit” (Mt. 15:14). Their ignorance does not excuse them; their blindness does not protect them from falling into the pit, on the contrary! In order to avoid hell, there is need to believe in it; in order to fall into it, it is not necessary to believe in it; one can even say that the surest way to fall into hell is to deny its existence! Indeed our Lord Jesus Christ said: “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:16).


Then other people object and say: “God cannot condemn so many people who do not follow His law!” Foolish excuses, foolish self-deceit! This is not what the Gospel says. Our Lord Jesus Christ indeed warned us: “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!” (Mt. 7:13-14). Don’t follow the many who go on the way that leads to destruction; but rather follow the Saints who show us the path and gate that leads to everlasting life!


At the core of the difficulty is that many are “enemies of the Cross” as St Paul says: “many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-19). Let us rather be “friends of the Cross of Christ”, following the example of St Paul, as he says in the same place: “Be ye followers of me, brethren, and observe them who walk so as you have our model… Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Phil. 3:17-20).


St Paul wrote: “with fear and trembling work out your salvation” (Phil. 2:12). A healthy fear of the Lord is thus good and useful. The psalmist sings: “The fear of the Lord is holy, enduring for ever and ever: the judgments of the Lord are true, justified in themselves” (Ps. 18:10). The fear of the Lord is holy, and makes us holy; it is the sign of a loving soul, to fear to offend God, to fear to displease Him. This is the “chaste fear” of the good bride who wishes to please her heavenly spouse. It does not make us live in scruples, but it makes us very resolutely and very deliberately avoid sin: an absolute NO to mortal sin, and no compromise with venial sin.


There are three kinds of venial sin: deliberate venial sin, such as a deliberate lie in small matters; sin of weakness, such as laziness, and sins of frailty (and surprise) such as impatience, which so easily happens as a first movement in surprise. The first one, deliberate venial sin, is really dangerous for the spiritual life: it takes away fervour and is the slippery road to mortal sin; one accepts sin, and makes no effort to get out of it; one chooses it while knowing it is a sin; it is not mortal simply because of small matter, but it is very deliberate. This must not be! A healthy fear of God takes away such deliberate venial sin, which is so damaging to spiritual life. This was the grace received by St Theresa through her vision of hell.


The other venial sins, if one repents from them as soon as one realises them, and makes a little act of reparation to make up for them, such sin then can become the occasion of acts of humility and fervour in reparation that are even very profitable for our soul. The danger there would be to neglect to make reparation for them. With regard to them, we do not live in fear nor scruple, but rather the very gift of the fear of the Lord makes us fervent in reparation and keeps us in humility, thus turning them into occasions of virtue.


Indeed one must not confuse scruple and delicateness of conscience. Scruple is not good; it is ignorance of the difference between mortal sin and venial sin, or ignorance of the difference between sin and no sin at all; such ignorance is not good and then leads to confusion. But delicateness of conscience is not ignorance at all; it lovingly avoids any sin, not only the big ones but even the small ones, out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ. Such delicateness of conscience is very good and very profitable for the soul. One finds it in all the saints, and one could not be a saint without it.


Let us pray to the holy Apostles, who taught us very clearly the importance of the holy Fear of the Lord, that they may obtain for us this great gift of the Holy Ghost, and that we may avoid the false prophets who destroy this holy fear from the heart of the faithful!


And may the Immaculate Heart of Mary obtain for us this beautiful delicateness of conscience, which so shines in her, and lead us to heaven! Amen.


Fr. F. Laiseny (sspxasia)