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Posts Tagged ‘Hell’

Four Last Things

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/09/11 at 12:00 AM

On the left side of our church we have this beautiful stained glass window of our Lord crowned with thorns. I love this window – in large part because it is dedicated to the memory of a dear friend of mine: Fr. Peter Conroy.

Fr. Peter and I met in Eastern Europe almost 20 years ago, and by providence we ended up in the same seminary a year later where we were classmates and close friends.

Fr. Peter was ordained in June of 1999 for the Diocese of Portland, Maine, and I was planning a trip to see him in November of that year, when he died quite unexpectedly in his sleep. Today is the anniversary of Fr. Peter’s death. He was 39 years old.

Fr. Peter was a priest on earth for only 5 months, but now he is a priest for all eternity.  When I look at this window, I think not only of my good friend, but I am also reminded of the brevity of life and of how none of us knows when we’ll have to face our Lord and His particular judgment of us.

Certainly that is the theme of our readings today. Both our first reading from the Book of Daniel and St. Mark’s Gospel speak in apocalyptic terms, reminding us of the great, final battle between good and evil and the subsequent Final Judgment.

As we come to the close of the liturgical year and prepare for Advent, Holy Mother Church leads us in the liturgy to meditate on death, judgment, Heaven and hell – what we traditionally call the “Four Last Things.”

And Holy Mother Church encourages us to meditate on the Four Last Things bearing in mind that we do not know the day or hour when we will be asked to give an accounting of our lives.

So while we trust whole-heartedly in God’s mercy and goodness, we also know that we need to prepare ourselves to see Him!

Our second reading today reminds us that our sins are forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but all the same we must be sorry for our sins, ask forgiveness, and make reparation for our sins if we hope to enjoy the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice!

The prophet Daniel tells us in very clear language of the eternal punishment that awaits those who have refused to repent of their sins, but he also speaks so beautifully of the eternal reward that awaits the just!

He says that, “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”

And so we must give very careful consideration to our death, knowing that once we pass through that great and mysterious veil separating the invisible from the visible, there will be no going back.

The judgment rendered in that first moment that we step into eternity will be final and irrevocable.

As a priest it has been my observation that most people die as they live. What I mean by that is that, if you live your life for God, seeking to love and serve Him; if you have a real relationship with our Lord, placing yourself in His presence daily through prayer, then you will – in all likelihood – know His presence at your death and pass away peacefully.

But if you’ve fought God and His commandments your whole life, if you’ve refused His mercy by refusing to repent of any of your sins, then chances are you won’t repent on your deathbed.

It is the sad lot of serious sinners that they tend to die in despair rather than in peace. Even when at death’s door they know they have sinned against God, so many refuse to trust in His mercy that our Lord gives so willingly and freely to any who ask for it.

The point is that we must begin preparing for our death now, even if we’re young.
Death is a mystery. For the soul who knows our Lord, who trusts and loves our Lord, death can be beautiful and joyful. But for those who have turned away from our Lord, death can by horrifying.

This is because the soul knows its eternal fate before it passes into eternity. Indeed, none of us will be surprised by the final judgment rendered upon us by our Lord. For in the depths of our hearts we know whether or not we are truly God’s friends.

So how do we ensure our names are written in the Book of Life that Daniel mentions? First of all, we must repent of all sin – especially our mortal sins. This means that not only must we be sorry for those actions, but we must try never to commit them again.

For Catholics it is imperative that we participate in the sacramental life of the Church, going to confession regularly and receiving Holy Communion regularly.

We must seek to follow all the tenets of the Church, and we must do our best to serve our Lord and show our love for Him by serving and loving others.

But most importantly, my brothers and sisters, we must pray daily. We must cultivate the silence necessary to truly listen to our Lord. For this is how we develop a lasting relationship with Him that will help carry us into eternity.

In prayer our Lord gives all the graces we need to fulfill our vocations and live holy lives. In prayer our Lord reveals His will to us so that we know what it is that He wants us to do.

But He also reveals His heart to us in prayer so that we come to love Him more than we love ourselves. And this is the key! For it is when we love God more than we love ourselves thatour contrition for our sins becomes perfect and we make great strides in holiness.

We are very blessed here at St. Ann’s to have Eucharistic Adoration 33 hours each week, for in Adoration we can enjoy the profound experience of seeing God in the Eucharist.

By faith we know that at every Mass our Lord humbly descends from Heaven to come to us under the appearance of bread and wine. Our Lord is really, truly present in the Eucharist, and in Eucharistic Adoration we can worship Him at length.

Truly, my brothers and sisters, spending time with our Eucharistic Lord is the best way to prepare for Heaven, for by being in His presence we get to see Him Whom we hope to adore for all eternity. If you don’t already come to Adoration, make it a point to do so.

Death comes for us all. But for Christians death should be a joyful and peaceful event. It can be just that: joyful and peaceful, if we are willing to live our lives in communion with our Lord.

May we all resolve to dedicate more time to our Lord in prayer. And by doing so, may we all be well prepared for that moment when we must render an account to God for our lives.

St. Joseph, Patron of Happy Death, pray for us.
18 November 2012

On the left side of our church we have this beautiful stained glass window of our Lord crowned with thorns. I love this window – in large part because it is dedicated to the memory of a dear friend of mine: Fr. Peter Conroy.
Fr. Peter and I met in Eastern Europe almost 20 years ago, and by providence we ended up in the same seminary a year later where we were classmates and close friends.
Fr. Peter was ordained in June of 1999 for the Diocese of Portland, Maine, and I was planning a trip to see him in November of that year, when he died quite unexpectedly in his sleep. Today is the anniversary of Fr. Peter’s death. He was 39 years old.
Fr. Peter was a priest on earth for only 5 months, but now he is a priest for all eternity.
When I look at this window, I think not only of my good friend, but I am also reminded of
the brevity of life and of how none of us knows when we’ll have to face our Lord and His

particular judgment of us.

Certainly that is the theme of our readings today. Both our first reading from the Book of
Daniel and St. Mark’s Gospel speak in apocalyptic terms, reminding us of the great, final

battle between good and evil and the subsequent Final Judgment.

As we come to the close of the liturgical year and prepare for Advent, Holy Mother Church
leads us in the liturgy to meditate on death, judgment, Heaven and hell – what we

traditionally call the “Four Last Things.”

And Holy Mother Church encourages us to meditate on the Four Last Things bearing in mind
that we do not know the day or hour when we will be asked to give an accounting of our

lives.

So while we trust whole-heartedly in God’s mercy and goodness, we also know that we need
to prepare ourselves to see Him!

Our second reading today reminds us that our sins are forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice on
the cross, but all the same we must be sorry for our sins, ask forgiveness, and make

reparation for our sins if we hope to enjoy the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice!

The prophet Daniel tells us in very clear language of the eternal punishment that awaits those
who have refused to repent of their sins, but he also speaks so beautifully of the eternal

reward that awaits the just!

He says that, “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who
lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”

And so we must give very careful consideration to our death, knowing that once we pass
through that great and mysterious veil separating the invisible from the visible, there will be

no going back.

The judgment rendered in that first moment that we step into eternity will be final and
irrevocable.

As a priest it has been my observation that most people die as they live. What I mean by that
is that, if you live your life for God, seeking to love and serve Him; if you have a real relationship with our Lord, placing yourself in His presence daily through prayer, then you will – in all likelihood – know His presence at your death and pass away peacefully.

But if you’ve fought God and His commandments your whole life, if you’ve refused His mercy by refusing to repent of any of your sins, then chances are you won’t repent on your deathbed.
It is the sad lot of serious sinners that they tend to die in despair rather than in peace. Even when at death’s door they know they have sinned against God, so many refuse to trust in His mercy that our Lord gives so willingly and freely to any who ask for it.
The point is that we must begin preparing for our death now, even if we’re young.
Death is a mystery. For the soul who knows our Lord, who trusts and loves our Lord, death
can be beautiful and joyful. But for those who have turned away from our Lord, death can by

horrifying.

This is because the soul knows its eternal fate before it passes into eternity. Indeed, none of
us will be surprised by the final judgment rendered upon us by our Lord. For in the depths of

our hearts we know whether or not we are truly God’s friends.

So how do we ensure our names are written in the Book of Life that Daniel mentions? First
of all, we must repent of all sin – especially our mortal sins. This means that not only must

we be sorry for those actions, but we must try never to commit them again.

For Catholics it is imperative that we participate in the sacramental life of the Church, going
to confession regularly and receiving Holy Communion regularly.

We must seek to follow all the tenets of the Church, and we must do our best to serve our
Lord and show our love for Him by serving and loving others.

But most importantly, my brothers and sisters, we must pray daily. We must cultivate the
silence necessary to truly listen to our Lord. For this is how we develop a lasting relationship

with Him that will help carry us into eternity.

In prayer our Lord gives all the graces we need to fulfill our vocations and live holy lives. In
prayer our Lord reveals His will to us so that we know what it is that He wants us to do.

But He also reveals His heart to us in prayer so that we come to love Him more than we love ourselves. And this is the key! For it is when we love God more than we love ourselves that
our contrition for our sins becomes perfect and we make great strides in holiness.

We are very blessed here at St. Ann’s to have Eucharistic Adoration 33 hours each week, for
in Adoration we can enjoy the profound experience of seeing God in the Eucharist.

By faith we know that at every Mass our Lord humbly descends from Heaven to come to us
under the appearance of bread and wine. Our Lord is really, truly present in the Eucharist,

and in Eucharistic Adoration we can worship Him at length.

Truly, my brothers and sisters, spending time with our Eucharistic Lord is the best way to
prepare for Heaven, for by being in His presence we get to see Him Whom we hope to adore

for all eternity. If you don’t already come to Adoration, make it a point to do so.

Death comes for us all. But for Christians death should be a joyful and peaceful event. It can be just that: joyful and peaceful, if we are willing to live our lives in communion with
our Lord.

May we all resolve to dedicate more time to our Lord in prayer. And by doing so, may we all
be well prepared for that moment when we must render an account to God for our lives.

St. Joseph, Patron of Happy Death, pray for us.
18 November 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

 

 

 

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A Helluva Place

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/05/10 at 11:15 AM

When a society or an individual rejects God, as does ours, at least in practice, the ability to think logically and rationally about the really important questions of human life (namely Where did I come from?, Why am I here?, Where am I going?, How do I get there?) is notably diminished.  These questions are either ignored or answered erroneously. (Remember, an idea or fact is not true because YOU think it is, or even sincerely believe it is; it is  true only if the idea or fact conforms to reality.)

God is the source and standard of Truth , and we must measure what we consider to be true against the divine standard of Truth.  If we are not in conformity with it, it is we who are in error, not God.

If this erroneous thinking is not corrected, or if divine Truth is rejected or ignored, the new standard of truth becomes one based on the faulty thinking of the  movers and shakers of the society and divine Truth is lost which, of course, does not affect God at all, but leaves those who subscribe to  errors as victims of their own choices.  At the same time, divine Truth  (found in Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the early Church) still has an impact due to the Natural Moral Law imprinted on the human soul.  Some of these doctrines (truths) being ignored or rejected are not to the liking of those whose “truth” is dictated by the culture.  One of these is the doctrine of Hell.  Scripture says it is real, painful, frustrating, and has no means of escape or release … ever.

Since many people do not want to deal with the doctrine of Hell, they either simply deny that it exists (without any convincing arguments) or they amend the doctrine to claim God is “so good” that He could never make hell eternal … even though He said it was eternal. Everyone, they say, gets out sometime and goes to Heaven (the false doctrine of universal salvation).  Consoling, but false!

Because God is truth and cannot deceive (if He could, He would not be God because He would have this deficiency and would not be perfect, as God must be) we know that Hell does exist whether anyone believes it or not.  It is an objective fact based on Scripture. “ I don’t believe in Scripture, so there.”  So what!  It’s still true!

What is this place called Hell?  What is it like?

We really don’t know precisely.  No one has ever returned to tell us about it.  Perhaps the reason is that such a report might frighten us into morality, and that would lead to questions about a person’s sincerity and true motivation.

Hell is described by Christ as a place of never-ending torment and punishment for those whose life has been marked by rejection of God, at least in practice and who die in a state of unrepented serious sin.  “Come on!  I don’t believe that.”  So what!  It’s still true!

According to Scripture, Hell has an element of serious pain by fire, a fire that burns but does not consume because those in Hell are immortal.  They cannot die again, so the fire rages non-stop, without any end in sight.

Those condemned to Hell feel also an acute sense of loss, concerning their forfeited salvation which can never be rectified.  They realize (probably at the point after death) that they made a colossal mistake by their own free will by refusing to follow God’s plan for their lives.  They will spend all eternity regretting their own stupidity and realizing that what they gained in life by rejecting God was not worth it compared to the consequences of their actions.  They realize that to avoid Hell would have been easy … obey God rather than the warped culture and its false prophets.  All the material things they thought were so important and necessary in life such a power, popularity, sex, drugs, etc., are long gone, and they know they had been a fools who are forever reminded of their bad judgments and choices throughout life.

Hell is the consequence of a choice.  Every human is given the ability to chose God or Satan, just as the fallen angels were.  God has never condemned anyone to Hell; He merely ratified our choice.  Even the false idols we were so fond of in life did not cause us to sin; it was our choice to follow the wrong road.  I suspect that when those in Hell review their lives, they will have to admit that they are there because, in effect, they preferred to be there by  their bad choices and poor judgments.

Hell is real, and many people in our irreligious culture are heading there because of their own adoration of the culture.  “I believe God is just too good to have created such a place.”  Really?  Dream on!   The fact that someone does not believe in Hell means nothing.  (If I don’t accept a truth, that’s too bad for me, not the the truth.)

Hell is not a predestination for anyone; it can be avoided.  How?  By rejecting what the moral law rejects, by  developing a true relationship with God instead of with the transient lures of a corrupt society, by obedience to the divine Will.  We were designed to have a relationship with God; it is a part of our human nature set by the Creator.  The habitual sinner violates his own nature which is God-oriented.  Follow the truth of God, because after we die, there is no chance for repentance.  Let’s not be one of those who the second after death looks around and says: “Well, I’ll be damned.”

The Mythical God by Jack Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/03/23 at 2:11 AM

Wishful thinking really does not have much to do with thinking; it is an unsupported hope that something negative will turn out to be positive in the end.  Prior to WWII, it was thought that if Hitler were treated as a normal person, he would act accordingly.  He didn’t.  Some women marry men with serious flaws hoping that marriage will change them for the better.  It seldom does.  We vote in elections at all levels hoping that perhaps this time the politicians will act like statesmen … or at least act rationally.  Maybe in the next election!

There is a deadlier form of wishful thinking that is becoming more widespread and snares many people who do not have a basic grasp of Christianity.  It is the illusion that God is so loving that He could not possibly condemn people to hell forever and that eventually everyone gets to heaven.

In the Catholic version of this, I suggest that the Catholic people have been told for the last 30-40 years that “God is love”.  (This is true, but incomplete.)  God loves us unconditionally, and He simply cannot bear to lose anyone in hell, so the illusion goes.  At the same time, when did you last hear a sermon on sin as the topic?  In the Pope’s talk to American Bishops recently, he referred to the decades of inferior  instruction in the US.

“Love” is a tricky word. In English it is used to denote not only true love, but also hopes (I’d love to visit Paris), preferences (I love pie more than cake) likes (I love that song).  English is basically an Anglo-Saxon tribal language, but more refined languages such as Greek use different words for love, depending on what is being loved.  There are different words for religious, physical, and parental love.  The Greek word for religious love is “agape” (ah-ga-pay), and it connotes nothing of sentiment, romance, or irrationality.  What it does suggest is that divine love means that God is committed to us.  (The basic meaning of the idea of love is commitment to someone.)  But, like any commitment, it demands reciprocal commitment.  Commitment in marriage cannot be one-sided.  Neither can our relationship to God.

It is certainly true that God has a commitment to mankind, and it is also true that God is good, but He is not stupid. He is certainly not the silly old doting grandfather figure so enamored by sinners.  There is even a denomination known as Universalism whose chief belief is that nobody stays in hell.

It is a deadly (spiritually) idea that God does not really care that much about sin, and that He ignores sin. It has no Scriptural foundation.

1. In the Gospels, Christ warns about hell far more that He mentions heaven.  Recall the story of Lazarus and Dives. “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  The reference to the lake of fire. Nowhere is it suggested that hell is a temporary situation.  If you read the Gospels and conclude that hell is not permanent, then read them again.  Christ was also God; therefore, His words reveal Truth … whether we like it or not.

2. Since God has set down Commandments and rules, He simply cannot ignore disobedience to them.  If He were to do so, he would be deficient and defective as God, and, therefore, imperfect … and, therefore, not really God.  God’s divine nature demands that he not ignore serious sin because such sin involves a broken relationship with Him … and He cannot ignore broken relationships.  To fail to punish at some point would not be consonant with His divine nature, and He cannot reject His own nature.  Thus, one who dies in the state of a broken relationship with God must expect the eternal consequences.  Remember that once you die, you cannot repair any spiritual problems.

3. It would not be fair, even in human terms, for someone who leads a dissolute, sinful life to share the rewards of the saints. What kind of a God would reward Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler in the same way?

4. If everyone eventually ends up in heaven, what would be he point of living a moral life?  Might as well “live it up” with the sinners.  It’s probably more fun and will not cost you anything ultimately.  More than that … if everyone is going to heaven and will be saved, what was the point of the Incarnation and Redemption?  Humans would not need to be redeemed. Therefore, everything about Christianity is a waste of time and, worse, a fraud.

5. Last, but not least … it is true that God condemns no one to hell.  Nor does He assign anyone to heaven.  It is our choice which He merely ratifies.  We are free agents in the matter of salvation: we can choose it or not.  (The work of divine grace is involved, but that is for another essay.)  If we end up in hell, it is because we chose to, and God never voids man’s free choices.

False philosophies, bad ideas, and poor judgments lead to negative effects.  To believe that you can go through life making decisions on matters that are the province of God (moral law) and presume that, even if you are sincerely wrong, God will nevertheless still welcome you to Paradise is the ultimate in wishful thinking.  God will never declare our errors to be truth.

The Gospels tell us there is only one narrow road to heaven and a wide freeway to hell. If you find yourself breezing along a freeway, you may think it’s worth it for a temporary sojourn in hell … but that is wishful thinking.