Friday in the Twenty-Eighth Week of Ordinary Time
In St. Bernard’s sermon on “Conversion” he writes: “Fear him who after he has killed has power to cast into hell. Bernard continues, “I will warn you whom to fear. Do you want to know who that is? It is yourself, your own iniquity.” I fear my own capacity for wickedness. It’s an act of love to remind ourselves and others about hell. Eternal fire is terrifying enough! But there’s something else that greatly increases my own dread of hell. We know that all goodness comes from God (James 1:17). Without God we can do nothing good. The freedom we now enjoy to choose good and avoid evil is from God. But those in hell are no longer free. They have rejected and lost God. They no longer have the ability to choose goodness. They can never again make an act of love, or be kind to someone, or say, “I’m sorry.” No one in hell can ever do anything good. Everyone in hell hates others and is hated forever. They hate God, and especially themselves.
But let us not lose heart at the thought of hell. St. Benedict tells us “to desire eternal life with all the passion of our spirit” (4:46). When I’m afraid that I might never get there, the words of the Lord in the prophet Isaiah give me consolation and courage: “Thus says the Lord who created you: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. … You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you” (Is 43:1-4).