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About hell (21C)

Chicago, St. Camillus, 26th August 2007

 

 

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Phl 2:12)

Dear friends of the same faith.
I would like to say just two words. 

1. The first word is about hell.
Do you believe in hell? Do you believe that it is possible to be condemned for ever? Do you believe it is possible not only to waste life but even eternity?
I don't know about you, but I have impression that nowadays the faith in hell is not common. Even though we have heard about heaven, purgatory and hell, we think: ‘God is love so everybody will be saved. Maybe Hitler, Stalin, maybe Osama Bin Laden are in danger, but not us.
Somebody once asked the pope John Paul II: "His Holiness, Have you heard that about 50% of bishops don't believe in Satan? The pope wasn't surprised. He just answered: If it is true, 50% of bishops don't believe in the Gospel".
Do you believe in hell...?
I don't want to scare you. I'm just reading with you today's gospel  and I see:
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough."
I'm reading today's gospel and I see:
"I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!"
I'm reading today's gospel and I see:
"There will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see [... ] yourselves cast out.”
Saint Paul understood this passage of the Gospel very well since he wrote: "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Phl 2:12) 

2. The second word is about ‘what is possible‘.
If we take seriously the Gospel about salvation and condemnation, we probably begin to ask: ‘Is my father who died last year in heaven?’ ‘What about my cousin who has never attended mass?’ ‘What about my children who say: ‘we don’t believe in God‘. These questions are like the question from today’s gospel: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
Jesus didn’t answer this question. Or better to say: Jesus answered in another dimension. He changed the perspective: “You, strive to enter through the narrow gate”. He changed the theoretical question in a concrete challenge. 

It was 3 years ago. I was then in Traunstein, in Germany. I used to say Mass for 4 weeks in a convent of German sisters. And there was one, very old sister who used to go every day to the chapel after listening to the news on TV. I asked her: ‘Sister, I admire you. First, because you listen to the news every day, and second because afterwards you always go to the chapel. Why do you do it?’ “Father“, - she answered - “I listen to the news because I want to know if people have problems and I go to the chapel because they do. I am just old, so all that I can do is to pray. 

If we take seriously the Gospel we probably begin to ask: “What about my salvation, what about my friends and my family?”. But if we really take the Gospel seriously we should do what is possible to save ourselves and those whom we love. We should rather do something than ask for everything. 

Dear brothers and sisters.
I wanted to say just two words: about ‘hell’ and about ‘what is possible’. Not because you are going to go to hell and not because you do nothing for your friends’ salvation. I did it because you have the right to know more today than yesterday.
It is true: God loves everybody.
It is true: God wants to save all people.
But it is also true: God says: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough."

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