What Hell Will Be Like

One of the excuses people make when confronted with sin is that they’d rather go to hell and get to make their own choices than follow God and have to limit their choices. This feeling contains a massive assumption: hell isn’t all that bad. They believe hell is just like earth. Like earth it must have its ups and downs, but they can survive there. To put it more clearly, they believe hell is just an eternal earth. It might not be an eternal paradise, but they could get used to the idea of immortality on earth. There will be ups and downs, but at least with their immortal life, they can work towards having more ups than downs. Unfortunately, there is nothing further from the truth.

If you can remember the worst days of your life, hell is that worst day for all eternity (CCC 1035). Maybe a loved one tragically died from cancer after years of great suffering. Maybe your homeland was under attack, forcing you to leave behind all you knew. Maybe your family and friends wrongly abandoned you, and now you are all alone. I’m sure everyone could think of many more worst days in life. In those horrible days there is no upside. It’s just bad. On earth, we focus on just getting through the bad day, knowing the next day could be much better. Well, in hell the next day is never better. The next day is just as bad as the worst day, and the next day after that too, and so on.

In hell, the suffering and pain never ends (CCC 1034). It is constant. It isn’t just a worst day but worst eternity, a nonstop horrible time. Even more, there is no escape from hell. On earth people sadly commit suicide to “escape” their suffering, but in hell everyone is already dead. You can only die once. There is no second death. After a person receives their particular judgment to be separated from God (CCC 1021-1022), hell is a constant bad dream without the ability to wake up. It becomes worse after the final judgment, when on the last day God will raise all the dead, even those who have already been condemned to hell (CCC 998, 1059). Now in addition to their mental anguish, hell is the worst pain they have ever felt with no end. Many people don’t believe that hell can be this bad, but the reason is simple.

Those in hell are completely separated from God (CCC 1035), but since God is the source of all love and all good comes from love (CCC 1723, 1955), there can be no good whatsoever in hell. Whenever a person does something good, it originated from God. Without God they would be incapable of doing good. So we know all people in hell are completely separated from God and that no love is possible without God. It’s easy to see then that in hell there are no ups and downs. It is just downs constantly, all the time. In fact, even the worst times on earth are better than hell.

Think about the horrible war torn lands on earth, where people are constantly fighting. There is no peace. But even in these horrible parts of the world, many people have families, a spouse, or children that they love. Maybe 99% of the surrounding people are enemies, but 1% are loved ones. In hell, there isn’t even that 1%. There is no family, spouse, or children, and no friends or kind strangers. Everyone is an enemy, everyone looking for their own personal pleasure without a care for anyone else. Not only that, since there is no pleasure in hell, the fruitless effort to find pleasure drives them to madness and anger. In their anger, they go out of their way to harm anyone they come across. From the Catechism, we know God gives man faith, hope, and most of all, love (CCC 1812), so complete separation from God brings the inability to trust (faith), have hope, or love others. Therefore, people in hell are reduced to animals, primitive creatures whose actions are completely bound by the instinct to seek personal pleasure. They are incapable of anything but evil actions.

The truth is hell has nothing good about it. Those in hell are condemned to constant suffering with no escape for all eternity. It is a place that should rightly be feared by all living souls on earth. I hope that in reading this you will see how bad hell really is. A healthy fear of hell can lead to the first step taken towards positive change. We all know the sins we have a weakness for. Focus on one of those, come up with a plan, and make the first small change towards improvement. If you have already started on the path of improvement, let this article motivate you even more to keep up the good work. Whenever you find yourself starting to think a sin isn’t all that bad, come back and read this short article. Understand where that sin will lead and it will keep you on the right path towards holiness.

Our sinful bodies, with the aid of Satan, are constantly trying to keep us in the present. After all, many sins don’t have an immediate consequence, but we must always be thinking about the future. Is my next choice going to lead me to heaven or to hell? What are the long term consequences of this decision I am about to make? Answer these questions well, for your eternal life hangs in the balance. I pray in reading this you will be motivated to do your best to live a good life. There is too much at stake to ignore this.

For those with scruples, this text may have caused great fear in your soul, but remember with scrupulosity you can’t trust your judgment on matters of sin and culpability. It is very likely you are much better than you think you are. To set things straight, I encourage you to go to confession every week for continual assurances from your priest and confessor of where you are at on your path to heaven. Also, really listen to your friends and family when they say you aren’t that bad. Sometimes it is easier to see the truth from the outside (your friends) looking in (at you) than from the inside (yourself) looking out.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

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God’s Answer to Concupiscence

On earth, humans have a lot of things against them. One of those is concupiscence. This is a long, hard-to-say word that stands for the problem humanity developed as a result of the first sin, original sin. After Adam and Eve sinned against God (Gen 3:1-8), they were now afflicted with the tendency to sin (CCC 405). No matter how hard they tried, they would always struggle with sin. Their relationship with God would be weak and always under threat. Not only would this affect Adam and Eve, their children, grandchildren, and so on would have to deal with it.

The Catholic Church named this condition concupiscence. Since all humans descended from Adam and Eve, we all have to live with this condition (CCC 407). This condition is what causes our inner temptations to sin. Satan can also tempt us, but with concupiscence we can be our own worst enemy. This is St. Paul referred to when he wrote about doing what he hated (Rom 7:19). No matter how good a person is their internal sinful desires will eventually get the best of them.

This can be a very sad thing to learn about. How can we possibly do good when our own bodies are against us? It’s all thanks to God. In his goodness he provides a counteracting force to oppose concupiscence. This force for good is grace (CCC 420). Where concupiscence constantly urges people to sin, God’s grace, through the Holy Spirit, constantly urges people to do good. Within each of us, good and evil are constantly battling (CCC 409).

At the same time, God still honors people’s free will. Just as our temptations to sin can never force us to sin, God’s grace will never force us to do good (CCC 155). We always have the choice. God’s grace is simply a positive influence. It’s plants in the mind a positive thought to do good and gives a taste of the warm, fuzzy feeling that will be felt after taking that good action. Even though God’s grace will never force us to do anything, sometimes that constant urging to do good is just enough.

I remember reading about a priest who for years ignored the grace of God calling him to join the priesthood. He ignored the call, constantly refusing to accept it, but eventually, he just couldn’t stand the constant urging from God. God never forced this man to become a priest, but he definitely made it hard to ignore the idea. Ultimately, God knows what is best for each of us. When he persistently calls us to do something, we should listen. It’s for our own good. That doesn’t mean it will be painless, but it the long run, we will be better off doing whatever it is God wants from us.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

Using the Rosary for Discernment

The Rosary is a special meditative prayer in which five mysteries are examined in detail and reflected on (CCC 2708, definition of Rosary p. 897). The hope is that after the prayer the person will understand the mysteries just a little more, gain new appreciation for all the good things Jesus and the saints did, and see a few things they need to improve in their life. Examining the mysteries is really just discernment. When we meditate on the mysteries, we are asking God to enlighten us on something about the mysteries. We hope to learn something new after the prayer. This discernment can be directed toward anything we wonder about though. By following the same form of the Rosary, we can ask God for help in discerning other things besides the significance of the mysteries.

The Rosary form has three parts: the opening, the meditation, and the closing. The opening prayers focus us on God, get us into the prayer mood. When our mind is in the right place, we are ready to meditate. After the meditation, we say a few closing prayers to Mary and God to help the meditation bear fruit in our lives. Below is a short list of the prayers for each part:

The Opening Prayers
Sign of the Cross
Apostle’s Creed
Our Father
3 Hail Marys
Glory Be

The Meditation Prayers
Repeat for each mystery (5 times):
Our Father
10 Hail Marys
Glory Be
Fatima Prayer

The Closing Prayers
Hail, Holy Queen
Prayer to God for our meditation to bear fruit (O God, whose Only Begotten Son…)

While keeping this overall structure intact, the Rosary can be made into a meditation for discernment with just a few changes. No changes are needed for the opening prayers. They are a reiteration of our Catholic beliefs and get us in the spiritual mood to meditate. The closing prayers need to be changed to ask God and Mary for help with whatever information we seek or decision we need to make. This is the end result of discernment, to enlighten us as to what would be best for us. While specific prayers can be written down, it is easy enough to make up the prayers as you go. The only structure you have to maintain at the end is to say a prayer to Mary and then to God. To change the meditation part, split up the overall discernment question into a few parts.

Instead of meditating on a mystery, each decade of the Rosary can be used to meditate on one option in a choice or question you have. The Rosary has five decades, but you can change that to any number depending on what you want to pray about. Discernment is most popularly used for choosing a vocation: priesthood, consecrated life, or marriage. In this case, you would reduce the Rosary from five decades to three decades. During the meditation you would imagine yourself in each vocation, examining what you would like and dislike about each one. For the closing prayers, you would ask for guidance from Mary and God. Discernment is not restricted to vocations though. It can be used for any major decision, such as choosing which job offer to accept.

Sometimes you might want to meditate about just one thing. In that case, you can split the one thing into a few parts. Continuing with the idea of vocations, say you discerned that you had a calling for consecrated life. You could then meditate on a few different religious orders that seem to be the best fit. Each decade of the prayer you would meditate on one of the possible religious orders. After some dedication to this praying, you would be able to whittle down the list of possible religious orders to just one or two. So the Rosary structure is great for discerning a vocation*, but you can discern other things too.

The Rosary meditation can be used to aid an examination of conscience. In this case, you would look at all your recurring sins and think about each one in detail, the when, where, and how you committed those sins. This would help during a later Sacrament of Penance but also might give you some clues as to what changes you need to make in your life to avoid future sins. You could go even deeper with this practice by focusing on just a single sin you struggle with. Maybe there are certain occasions you usually commit sins during. You could then meditate (one decade) on each of those occasions with the goal to improve your actions when those occasions happen again. You would not simply be thinking about what you should do. Instead, you would invite God, with Mary’s intercessions, to help make these decisions.

The Rosary can be used as part of thanksgiving for all the good things God has done for you on a particular day. Meditate on all good things that happened before, during, and after work. Those were the blessings God gave you that day. This is discernment too. You are discerning how God helped you in your life. The closing prayers would be of thanksgiving towards Mary for her prayers on your behalf, to God directly for what he has done for you.

The possibilities are really endless. Anything you can think of where discernment might help can be thought about deeply in meditation with God and Mary’s help using the structure of the Rosary. The Rosary isn’t required for discernment, of course, but I have found it an easy, prayerful way to help me think deeply about my life and decide on any changes I need to make. During my normal prayer, my mind tends to get bombarded by outside thoughts. The Rosary is one of the few prayers that keeps my mind on track most of the time.

*Note: Discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life involves more than just your own personal prayer. Please contact the vocations director in your diocese if you feel called to one of these vocations. You want to get all the support you can before making such an important decision.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

Being Humble in Our Achievements

It always annoys me when I hear some rich person or amazing athlete bragging about all their success. The reality is that much of their success depends on God. We commonly say “thank you” to people when they help us, but it’s not really the helping we are thanking. We are actually thanking them for making the choice to help us. After all, the action is dependent on the person’s body that God provided them (CCC 41). He picked all the unique genes that gave the person their talents and skills (CCC 814, 913). The person can’t take credit for their talents, only for the good choice they made to help (CCC 311).

When we look at our lives, we should always separate the action from the choice. Only then can we get a good idea of how much credit we deserve. Our whole lives we are constantly cooperating with God to use the body he gave us for good (CCC 323). God gave us the talents; we make the choice. We should never claim that we deserve all the credit for everything we’ve done. And this isn’t even considering other people that may have influenced us.

We may have had friends or family that gave us good advice or motivation. Those people influenced our decisions, so we can’t even take full credit for our decisions. I would guess that in most cases, we can only claim around 25% of the credit for our achievements in life. We owe the majority of what we do to others. Unfortunately, when thinking about achievements, it’s very easy to focus too much on the present. We see all our success and think, “Look at all I did!”. We forget about all the people that helped us along the way. Even worse, we forget that God gave us the capability to do all these things because of the body he gave us.

When thinking about all the progress we’ve made in life, I think it is good practice to force ourselves to acknowledge the others in our lives every step of the way. A huge part of the Catholic faith is focusing on others instead of ourselves. This is called sacrifice, which is part of charity, and charity is another name for love (CCC 2100, CCC 1822). We know that God is love, so we have to embody love too. Avoid having pride in your achievements (CCC 2481, 1 Jn 2:15-16). Always focus on how you were helped by others. Whenever you think about all you’ve done, don’t just think of the main bullet points. Think about all the people that were around you during those moments. When someone gives you credit for an action, be polite and thank them, but make sure to mention the others that helped you.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared