Can you imagine yourself rejoicing that someone is in hell? A living hell now or an eternal hell after death, as some religions and churches teach. Where is God if you rejoice like that? You must be sick and sickening if the thought of people in hell pleases, even delights, you.
No, you say calmly, this is the justice of God.
They are suffering because they deserve to. They missed mass on Sunday and committed a mortal sin so they deserve hell. I was taught like that at school and I know how deeply those teachers must now regret having taught the Catholic Faith in that way. Poor, pathetic, loathsome teaching – teachers, priests, grandparents, parents – who believed love of God should be taught through frightening fear (*).
Sinners have offended God, you say, still calm, and thus they must suffer the consequences. We should rejoice at the justice of God that punishes in hell fire.
Hell for eternity? There is no justice in that. Even if you chose to destroy the inhabited world by exploding all the nuclear bombs we have (people are poor, hungry, homeless, suffer, and we have enough nuclear bombs, including Trident, to destroy the world – what madness!) would that be enough to justify your being condemned for all eternity? That makes the punishment greater than the crime. Would God punish more than the sin deserved? Of course not. There can be no eternal punishment for any temporal wrong. There would be no justice there.
Cec Denahy was a New Zealand priest famous for his parish missions and hell-fire sermons. Suddenly he changed. I preached a retreat at his monastery and was able to have a long conversation with him. Why had he changed so completely? “There is only one message, John,” he said, “God’s love. I regret all those hell-fire and damnation sermons now. I want only to preach God’s love, God’s understanding and forgiving love.”
God’s love is the message. Ignore the ignorant preachers who trade on fear and sin and damnation and the people who like to be excited at the pretend fear and an emotional high. God is love. That’s the Gospel. Hell is people’s imagination.
God bless us,
(24th March 2019)
* Our Italian brethren and professors in Rome were amazed at the
teaching we received in British and Irish schools on missing mass –
mortal sin – danger of hell. “We’d be sending most of Italy to hell
every week” they said!