1037: Hell

Who is going to Hell, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

Forget what you think you know. Throw it out the window. Forget all your misgivings about the Church by folks who might have been uninformed. Here’s the truth about what the Church teaches about who is meant for Hell:

“God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (A mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want ‘any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”
-Article 1037, Catechism of the Catholic Church

Ok, let’s break it down and think about this a little, shall we?
You are not predestined to go to Hell.
I am not predestined to go to Hell.
He/She/Me/We is not predestined to go to Hell.

Who is predestined to go to Hell? NO ONE!

The Catholic Church understands that you are not going to go to Hell because of some destiny of yours. Nuh-uh. Here’s the truth:
If you go to Hell, it’s because you have chosen to go to Hell. If you willfully turn away from God, you have chosen to be separated from God.

Why anybody would kynowingly do this, I have no idea.

Here’s the thing, though. If the admittance to Hell is your choice to make, you could make that choice at any point in your life. The beauty of baptism is that our sinful nature is given over to Jesus and cleansed, and we are one of his flock. But that doesn’t mean we can’t lose the grace we’ve been given. It’s not a rotisserie-chicken, “set it and forget it” type of thing. We have to willingly choose God at all points in our lives.

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing: In all my years research of reasoning and comparative religion, there seems to be no way of “opting out” of this choice. At some point or other, we all have to choose the direction of the elevator. The Catholic Church simply understands that this choice is an ongoing one, not just made once in our lives.

I thought about this a lot when I was learning about it after my reading. And it makes total sense. My weak nature really really reeeeeeeally wants Jesus to just take the wheel. Like, really. Wouldn’t it be easy? Wouldn’t it be wonderfully easy? But I have realized that the moment the choice to accept God’s love is taken care of, is wrapped up, set, and forgotten, is the moment I no longer have the choice to choose God. The moment I no longer have the choice to choose God is the moment I lose my free will. 

Say what you want about the Catholic Church, but this little tidbit tells me that learning about Heaven and Hell is not the fire-and-brimstone discussion that it’s usually portrayed to be. Not really. What it should be–and I hope what it will be–is just stating the truth, using reason, to show that Jesus gives us this life to learn how to love Him, knowing we must be free to do so.

Now, God is all-powerful. If God wanted me to act/think/be a certain way, I would be that way in a second. In a second! That lightning bolt really would come down and I’d either be made an angel, or I’d become one crispy critter.

The only thing that explains an almighty, omniscient, ever-living God who actually wants me to have my freedom until my dying breath is that it must be that He loves me. It must be that there is a mercy just waiting for me that I just can’t imagine. What other reason could there be for letting me be free to choose God or not?! It must follow that God loves you. It must follow that this all-powerful God wants you to be free, free in your soul, for always, because if He didn’t want your freedom, you wouldn’t be free!

The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9, New American Bible, Revised Edition

God loves you! You are not meant to go to Hell. You are not scum. You are not trash. You are not despicable. You matter. You are seen. You have worth. You are valued, and you are desired by a God who is patient with you, who loves you for you.

Don’t choose Hell. You’re not meant for Hell, so don’t pick it. Instead, why not start to learn about what would help align you to a pathway of peace, and a pathway to God? The Catechism says this path is narrow, and of course it is–it’s only meant for one person: you! It has to start with you. It has to start with your choice to let go of your pride for a moment, and to say “God, my actions separated me from knowing you, and I’m sorry.” You might say you didn’t meant to separate! But chances are, somewhere deep within your human nature, your pride got the best of you, and you decided to turn away. Stop it, already! XD

The Catechism is already hinting at the next step to take: repentance. In the Catholic Church, repentance is a regular part of Christian life. Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation (otherwise known as Confession), and it’s supposed to be an extension of mercy to regular folks like us.
Don’t be afraid of Confession. Remember that God loves you. Go today. Go as soon as possible, and stop carrying around that burden that’s been bugging you.

Not Catholic? That’s ok too! I’ve known quite a few people who have gone to Confession, and basically said something like “Father, (which is the correct way for anyone to address a priest, regardless of whether or not they go to that church) Father, I’m not Catholic but I’ve got this heavy burden on my mind, and I need to talk to someone.” Or what about just saying “Father, I’m not Catholic but I know I’m separated from God and I don’t know what to do.” Don’t believe in God? Tell him! Mad at God? Tell the priest about that too! Take it from someone who winds up in the confessional with just cause quite often: There is nothing you could say that would shock the priest. Priests hear it all. Also, he is there to show you the mercy of Jesus, which is meant for all people, not just people who have been brought up in the Catholic Church. This grace is waiting for everyone. And it’s free! Oh so much cheaper than therapy, yes? Why not give it a try? (P.S. priests also have cell phones nowadays, and I’ve heard of several whom you can call or email and set up a time to go give a Confession!)

So to review: salvation is not like chicken pox, where you get it and it’s one-and-done. It is an ongoing task for us to learn how to accept it, and we become separated from God when we refuse that grace, for whatever reason. Turning away from God on purpose, and staying that way, is the way we choose Hell. Understanding that God loves us is the first step toward repentance, since alignment with God is how we are given true grace, peace, and freedom within our souls.

And as a final note, the next time you go to visit the confessional, be sure to thank your confessor for helping you understand the love and mercy Jesus has for you!

Until next time,

Maggie O’the Valley

Source for Adventurous Reading:
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica. English translation (United States, 2nd edition) United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1997. Print.

(C) 2017 www.maggieothevalley.com

*This post was NOT sponsored

“The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one that makes you think.”
-Harper Lee

1 Comment

  • Mitch Wagner says:

    Salvation is an ongoing process, not just of a person but of the whole Christian community, toward God. The absence of God, the absence of Light is the definition of hell.

    Wanna be a catechist?

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