St John's Q&A

Monday, April 23, 2007

A profound exchange

A quick question to start from “Anon”:Why did the deacon give the homily today for Fr. Mike? I thought that when the deacon was present for mass, he'd read the gospel, but the priest, as celebrant, should do the homily.

A large part of a deacon’s ministry is preaching the Word. So, here at St. Andrew’s, the deacons preach the 3rd Sunday of every month.
We had a very interesting exchange from a post back in February. The first anonymous blogger wrote, “I have read and been told that Hell is, in essence, permanent estrangement from God, or, living eternally in the total absence of God. Lots of people live in that state on earth, some by choice and some not. Hell for those people will be different only in that the state is permanent with no hope of ever having communion with God. Right?”

Then “Zophiel” responded:

"Anonymous,I think you've got it right. What I remember from the teaching is that Hell is essentially a choice, one chooses to be estranged from God, usually due to something like Pride, which is why it's considered a "deadly sin". I don't know that I would say any person living on Earth is completely in that condition, simply because the earth is saturated with God, like a sponge in the ocean. But I think there are people approaching that state, who continually shut out God's attempts to get through to them, because they won't let go Pride, Greed, Lust, etc. And, if they don't figure things out by the final moment, they'll like finally achieve the state of Hell in the end. Which is why we should always be praying even for our enemies, because such a fate is horrible beyond our ability to imagine, and if possible, made even worse because it is chosen.It's the more unpleasant part of Free Will. If we are to have the ability to choose God, then we must also have the ability to choose Not-God. The latter is Hell.”

Another Anon commented: “Being estranged from God may usually be by choice, but not always. Some people cannot choose God because they truly lack the capacity -- they do not have the mental, intellectual, developmental (trying to find the right word) wherewithal to make the internal decision. It can come from having suffered horrendous treatment from others (spirit gets crushed)or from being born with deficiencies. But whatever the cause -- self or not -- many people are quite used to the absence of God. Hell is not going to shock them.”

I find this to be a very profound and deep exchange! I would agree with most of it. A couple of things to keep in mind: 1) Hell is an eternal, not a permanent, state. 2) In order for someone to go to Hell, he/she has to choose it. Remember, the three conditions of a mortal sin are a) grave matter, b) full knowledge, and c) full consent. Mortal sin is how we break our relationship with God; anyone who dies in a state of unrepented mortal sin goes to Hell. But, to be in that state involves a full and free choice.


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