Saturday, September 26, 2009

TWENTY-SIXTH Sunday: "if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out"

Numbers 11, 25-29; Psalm 19: 8, 10, 12-14; James 5, 1-6; St. Mark 9, 38-43. 45. 47-48

Some think that the preaching of the Church should not include the mention of hell. The Church requires the priest or deacon to preach on the text of the Scriptures, and in our Gospel not only does the Lord mention the existence of hell, he goes on to describe this state of final and everlasting separation from the love and goodness of God.

The Church, in faithfulness to the Lord, teaches about the existence of hell and preaches about it because the Lord himself spoke of its existence. To have a distaste for the discussion of hell or the reality of evil is the choice of the individual. We are called, though, not merely to be good such that we have a distaste for evil or for speaking about it; we are made to be holy as God is holy, and therefore to be satisfied not merely with being good but, much more, to long to be saints.

The saints faced the reality of hell by taking responsibility for their moral choices and for availing themselves of Christ's mercy in Confession and the Eucharist on a frequent basis. The Lord teaches the people in our Gospel about the reality of hell in order to inform them that they must take responsibility for their actions and realize that they can choose to be eternally separated from God and all that is good. He teaches that free and wholehearted service to the poor, the hungry and the thirsty are the good works which reflect interior holiness. He teaches that scandalizing those whose faith is weak is a mortal sin, punishable by the greatest of penalties. We are to avoid sin and scandal by rejecting the near occasions of sin. And if we fail to root sin out of our lives, it is by our own choice that we "go to hell, to the unquenchable fire."

Jesus often speaks of Gehenna, of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. (Cf. Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-48) Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather...all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"(Mt 13:41-42) and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!" (Mt 25:41) (CCC 1034)

There is no middle way: we either go to heaven, perhaps by way of a purification from our attachment to sin, called purgatory, or we are consigned to hell "where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy" -Fr. Cusick

(See also paragraphs 1034 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Art: Hieronymus Bosch, Last Judgment.

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