Saturday, September 25, 2010

Denial of truth is sometimes disguised as kindness. When we do not tell others the things we know they need to hear for fear of hurting their feelings we treasure human respect more than salvation. Add to that a general ignorance of the Church's authentic teachings, and you get the general situation we find ourselves in today: many are languishing spiritually, going through all the motions of Catholic life without any perceptible spiritual benefit.

Proper celebration of the faith and life of the Church should unfailingly lead to serenity and hope despite the vicissitudes of life. Faith must have as its foundation an ongoing investigation and acceptance of the truths the Church teaches. When sacramental celebration and prayer flow from this firm foundation, the faithful are able to reap the benefits of our Catholic Faith.

One matter which many avoid, and some outright deny, is the existence of hell. For some Catholics the possibility of a state of damnation is one of the fables that was allegedly jettisoned at the second council of the Vatican. A belief that the Church ever put her faith in fables or myths is regrettably common.

That anything ever true, and held thus in the Church's deposit of faith, must always be true is also poorly understood. Among the unpopular subjects today is hell. Hell does exist, as we profess in our Creed at each Liturgy.

"The rich man is denied the vision and presence of God forever because of his actions in this world. 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." (CCC 1035)

Some wonder how Christ could descend into hell, as we profess in the Creed, if he is divine and holy. Some, also, because he brought some souls out of hell with him, which we sometimes call the" harrowing of hell" think that hades is not an eternal state of separation from God.

"Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" --Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek--because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. (Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.) Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into Abraham's bosom: (Cf. Ps 89:49; 1 Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.) It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord, delivered when he descended into hell. (Roman Catechism I, 6,3.) Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him. (Cf. Council of Rome (745); DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.)" (CCC 633)

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