HELL AND PURGATORY

 

       There are only two roads to traverse: the straight and narrow or the broad; the road that is crossed in subordination to will that is perfect, or the one that is crossed over in opposition to it, finding at the ends of each their final resulting fate or inescapable lot: "Do your best to go in through the narrow door; because many people will surely try to go in but will not be able. The master of the house will get up and close the door" (Luke, 13:24-25), and "I will show you whom to fear: fear God, who... has the authority to throw into hell" (Luke, 12:5). The Apostle Paul reminds us: "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body" (2 Cor. 5:10).

       Saint Faustina by the allowance of God had seen the place of eternal damnation, the abode of evil spirits and the abysses of hell in order to attest to its existence. The following is her eyewitness account: "Today, I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures I saw: the first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one's condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it - a terrible suffering, since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God's anger; the fifth torture is continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and, despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of Satan; the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of the sufferings. There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God has not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there" (Divine Mercy in My Soul, pp. 296-297).

       And, this is what Saint Faustina had witnessed in Purgatory:

"I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames which were burning them did not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God. I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call Her 'The Star of the Sea.' She brings them refreshment. I wanted to talk with them some more, but my Guardian Angel beckoned me to leave. We went out of that prison of suffering. [I heard an interior voice] which said, 'My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it.' Since that time, I am in closer communion with the suffering souls" (Divine Mercy..., p. 11).

       Neither God, the circumstances nor the devil can be made accountable for human miseries - the source of all conceivable anguish lies exclusively in human beings themselves. Human understanding, interpretation and choices are the determinants that make them either hopeful and courageous or distressed and heartbroken. It is not the things themselves that disturb us, as Epictetus perceptively observed, but rather the opinions and interpretations we formulate about them. Whenever disasters strike, the response is crucial, for if adversity is viewed as a necessity, personal renewal and improvement become a possibility. When temptations seem too overwhelming, it is too our response, which determines whether a sense of mastery or guiltiness will result. Observing of divine precepts can require at times inordinateness of effort, yet it can never become unattainable since God not only could never demand what is unrealizable  but: "The law was given that grace might be sought; and grace was given, that the law might be fulfilled" (Saint Augustine). And, "His eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. He has not commanded anyone to be ungodly, and he has not given anyone permission to sin" (Sir. 15:19-20). Human beings themselves are their own greatest enemies and adversaries - everything depends on the individual response... on what is dwelled upon or what is continually gazed at...

       There exists inseparableness between divine grace and human freedom; between the gift of divine love, protection, the power or excellence granted freely to us, and the mission assigned as a part of our obligation, which Saint Augustine with the depth of insight explained: "Grant what you command and command what you will" (op. cit., The Spendor of Truth, p. 37). When looking from heaven's perspective, none of us would change anything in our lives, except sin of course! Humankind would also come to the surest realization that it is infinitely more blessed than all possible sufferings that it could ever collectively endure. Human finitude and mortality would cease to be the source of undue apprehension when there is the realization that there is One who has already overcome the world, and when there is faithful and self-sacrificing conformity to His Word. No one possesses the certainty what life has in store for him/her in the future, yet what peace and assurance possess those who are straight with God, "...he who possesses the last hour no longer needs to fear the next minute" (Thielicke, Christ and Meaning of Life, p. 137).

       A person can understand only the one whom he/she truly loves, and therefore when there is no authenticity in the human love of God; when God is not loved above all else, His designs will be unduly questioned - human efforts ceaselessly remaining in confutative arguments, misinterpreting or misconceiving the totality of human existence. As Eleonore Stump powerfully reaffirms: "If you could see the loving face of a truly good God, you would have an answer to the question why God had afflicted you. When you see the deep love in the face of a person you suppose, has betrayed you, you know you were wrong. Whatever happened was done out of love for you by a heart that would never betray you and a mind bent on your good" (God and the Philosophers, p. 242). God cannot ever be known unless He is unreservedly loved, and God cannot be really loved unless there is a complete nonresistance to His will. Attending to affliction, as well as, to silence are a form of accepting greater good than ourselves. "Uncomforting affliction" has the power to move us onto a higher plane, destroying that which is evil, and awakening that which is real. Affliction in union with attention given to the divine leads to a purer understanding - bringing about a gradual renunciation of the false self. For it is the constant challenge of Love, which makes it possible to rather suffer for Truth than lend oneself to illusion.

Christian Works by Dorothy Kardas, Psy.D. Th.D. 

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