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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Hell is Never Saying You’re Sorry

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I was asked one time, “Father, do you think the damned in hell are sorry for their sins?”  Given the terms we use in the Act of Contrition, the answer is no.  The damned souls carry with them their malevolence or spite.  The animosity or ill will that precipitated evil acts has eternally infected them.  Perfect contrition would require loving God and regretting how they have dishonored him.  This love cannot enter hell.  The pain derived from the loss of heaven and the fear of hell in imperfect contrition might have saved them but they tarried too long in returning to the Lord.  This level of sorrow only has meaning outside of hell and in this life.  Death forever fixes a person’s spiritual state, either convicted of sin in hell or as one found worthy of heaven, albeit possibly after purgation.  The damned might not like the consequences of their sins but that is inconsequential.  It changes nothing.  It amounts to nothing.  Like the demons, they wear their sins; they become sin.  If there is any regret it is understood in terms of resentment toward judgment.  Popular depictions of hell are often heavily weighted toward sadism.  But it is probably wrong to assume that all the damned find satisfaction in suffering or giving pain.  The sense of loss is real and lasting.  There is a frustration that cannot be escaped.  They were made for God and yet they have denounced him.  They have damaged themselves.  They are irrevocably broken and can never be fixed.  They settled for less when they could have had everything that mattered.  Dante imagined that the regions of hell reflect the sins with which people most commit.  This bondage is made permanent after death.  Even in this life people tend to identify themselves by their sins.  They could be ever so much more.  Important questions arise for those still in pilgrimage here on earth:

  1. Do you love God and neighbor as you should?
  2. Do you hate sin and are you sorry for offenses?
  3. Have you repented and made an amendment of life?
  4. Have you sought God’s mercy and his absolution in the Church?

God is not capricious but time is quickly running out.  Too many have become comfortable living in mortal sin.  These are the living dead among us.  Yes, there is a tragedy for those who die in sin and are lost; however, there is a tragedy here-and-now for missed opportunities.  How many others might be lost because we failed to be the Christians we were called to be.  How many have been forced to suffer abandonment, oppression, poverty and pain because of our failure to care— our failure to love?  We do not know the day or the hour that the Lord will come for us.  That last moment we live in this world will be frozen for eternity.  What is our spiritual and moral orientation?  Are we molded by grace and discipleship so as to be transformed into saints?  Are we spiritually disfigured by vice and sin into something monstrous and shameful?

The measure for spiritual transformation is always charity.  Jesus tells us a parable about a rich man who ignores the needs of a beggar that lives on his doorstep.  His state is so lamentable that the dogs licked his sores.  Where there is a failure to love, people are often stripped of dignity.  The beggar Lazarus is walked over like a doormat; worst yet, he is reduced to dog food.  The rich man is aware of his plight but just he does not care.  Death balances the scales.  The beggar is translated to the side of Abraham in paradise; the rich man finds himself tormented in the abode of death.  He is literally in hell.  The rich man does not rejoice at the beggar’s good fortune.  There is no praise for divine justice.  Even in hell, the rich man remains locked in his preoccupation with self.  He cries from far off, “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames” (Luke 16:24).

The damned have neither a bucket nor a cup.  They cannot cup their hands as it looks too much like a gesture for prayer.  Jesus makes himself the great sin offering, dying in our stead.  Nevertheless, even on the crosses beside his, there is one who trusts Christ and another who curses him.  Jesus says, “I thirst.”  This thirst is a consequence of all the sins of the world, a burden that he takes upon himself on Calvary.  He would thirst for a moment so that those who believe in him might receive a living water and never thirst again.  Those in hell have rejected this refreshment.  Their thirst cannot be satisfied.  Yes, even if the water be brought to them they would still thirst.  Not only do the damned have no cups— they have forgotten how to drink.