My brothers and sisters, Jesus in our Gospel speaks of a place called Gehenna, which is Greek for Hell. In today’s day and time, Hell is not a topic that anyone wants to think about or even believe that it exists. And we certainly don’t want to think that anyone might be sent there for all eternity. However, Gehenna is based on a real place. The root of it- ‘Ge’ means land, and ‘henna’ comes from Hinnom- so Gehenna literally means the Land of Hinnom. The land of Hinnom is a real place, East and Southeast of Jerusalem. Jeremiah chapter 7 talks describes the Land of Hinnom as the place in which there were horrific sacrifices and occult activities, the worship of pagan deities, and even human sacrifice. It was the place where the pagan people actually offered their own sons and daughters as holocausts to the wretched god, Molech. Can you imagine such a place- a place of occult worship filled with unquenchable fires from the holocausts of their own children? Gehenna or Hell truly is a demonic place. If you are appalled that such a place exists, you should be. If you think that I am trying to scare Hell out of you, you are right!
Even though many people don’t want to think of Hell as a real place that people might go, Jesus speaks of the reality of Hell over and over again. In fact, in the Gospels, Jesus talks about Hell more than the entire New Testament books combined. Jesus speaks of Gehenna as eternal unquenchable fire where the wicked will be cast and there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Jesus talked about Hell as a real place because he literally did everything he could to help people not end up there. Therefore, just as real as the death and resurrection of Jesus is, is the salvation from the real place of Hell that Jesus can and does save us.
Listen to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about Hell. “God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (in other words, a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end” (CCC 1037). “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, eternal fire” (CCC 1035) In other words, through willfully choosing to commit a mortal sin, and not repenting of it, the person sends themselves to the eternal fires of Hell. Many people think that mortal sin is so common and is no big deal. But a mortal sin is willfully committing an act which one knows is turning away from God or the teachings of His Church; and such an act, if not repented of, will deserve the eternal punishment of Hell.
In our Gospel, Jesus concludes by saying that if there is anything that causes you to sin, cut it out. Think about your most serious sins, what have you practically done to avoid them? Have you done all you can to avoid the near occasion of sin? Some people think that all they have to do is go to confession, then everything will be OK. And it will, God will have mercy, but we still need to do all we can to avoid that sin and whatever might lead us into it. For example, some people will come and confess the mortal sins of pornography and masturbation, which is great, and God does forgive, but they don’t do anything practically to avoid those sins besides confession. So, I ask you, as I ask myself, have we done everything we can to root out all sin, especially mortal sin? Do whatever it takes, eternally avoiding Hell and going to Heaven is worth every effort. Indeed, we all need to do all we can not only to avoid Hell, but to go to Heaven. We cannot just end up in Heaven without doing something for it, without choosing God. We will end up eternally where ever we choose. Therefore, not only must we do all we can to avoid all mortal sins, but we must also do all we can to choose Heaven, to do all we can to pursue the holiness of God. So again, I ask you as I ask myself, have we done everything we can to possess eternal life in Heaven? Again, every effort will be worth it, and our eternity depends on it.
Listen again to how the Catechism describes Hell, “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs”. (CCC 1035) The chief punishment of Hell is separation from God. Think about that for a moment, think about who God is. God is complete truth, goodness, and beauty in himself. And as Scripture says, God is love. And so, can you, do you want to even imagine eternity without any form of goodness, or truth, or beauty. Hell is the place where there is nothing but evil, nothing but ugliness and hatred. Hell is an existence with nothing but selfish using of the other, void of any amount of love. Eternal separation from any goodness and love, sounds pretty terrible, doesn’t it? My brothers and sisters, how many people are sort of living in ‘hell’ now, on this earth today, how many people are living without any sense of goodness, living without hope or do not know love. As the Catechism stated, ‘in God alone can we possess the life and happiness for which we were created for and long’. Each and every person was created for and long for the life and happiness that is only found in God. Only in knowing God and choosing God, can we possess the fullness of life and love we long for. How many people don’t know that? Do you?
In our 1st reading, the Holy Spirit that had descended upon Moses, also descended upon the 70 elders who were to help Moses, including Eldad and Medad who was not at the ceremony with the other 68, but still in the camp, but they too received the Holy Spirit and started to prophesy. And Moses said, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” Remember again who a prophet was. A prophet spoke on behalf of God and called the people to repentance and conversion. Eldad and Medad were suddenly in the camp calling people to repentance. Indeed, what if all the people, what if each one of you and I, received the Holy Spirit and became prophets who spoke up and called people to repentance and conversion. Of course, to do so, before we can be prophets, we have to be witnesses. We can’t be hypocrites, we can’t call others to repentance and ourselves not be examples of it. We cannot expect others to rid out sin if we ourselves are not doing all we can to strive for holiness. Every one of us, from our baptism, are called to be prophets. We are called not only to do all we can to root out sin and strive for holiness ourselves, but we are also called to do all we can to encourage and help others do the same. But before we can prophesy and call others to repentance, we have to have an understanding of why that action is sinful. For example, can you explain to someone why using contraception or cohabitating is a mortal sin and is not for their good? If you can’t or don’t, then you aren’t being the prophet God calls us to be. But also, if you do nothing to educate yourself in order to become a prophet. If you stand idly by, silent, and don’t educate yourself to be able explain the truth to others, and if you don’t encourage them to repentance and conversion, you are not being the prophet you are called to be. Likewise, can you share with another Catholic the reality and truth of the Holy Eucharist and thus by choosing to miss Mass, they are literally choosing to separate themselves from God? And if they choose to separate themselves from God and don’t repent, then what their destiny will be? Perhaps more importantly, are you able to share with another person the good, the life, the love, the salvation, which we are given from God in every Mass? If we don’t call others to the life and love that God made us for, then we are not prophets. What’s more, though, is if you and I don’t do all what we can to educate others on the reality of Hell, and that eternal separation from God is a definite possibility unless we repent and strive for conversion and holiness, then God will hold us responsible. Let that truth sink in. If we are not prophets who call others to repentance and holiness, then God will hold us responsible. Of course, how we speak and what we say might vary for each person, depending on the closeness of our relationship. But we must all do our part, no matter how big or small that might be, we are all called to be prophets, and we will be held accountable to the prophets that we are or are not.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, what Jesus said and taught, is still true, even though some might not believe it. Heaven is a reality. But Hell is also just as real. And it is up to you and I, and every person, to choose where we end up- so let us do all we can, and I mean all we can, to rid ourselves of sin and strive for holiness- for our eternity depends upon it. There is no coasting into Heaven.BACK TO LIST