I know that some people don’t believe in Hell. I want to give those folks an opportunity to change my mind, so my short essay today will be to argue for the certainty of everlasting hellfire and damnation being a possible fate for any person.
I begin with the stipulation that man has free will. The Lord made man in His image, which means that we, like the Lord, can choose our actions.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
1730 God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.”26
The Lord is not merely pretending at this, like a parent who knows that no matter what willful stubbornness a child may display, the whole family will be showing up for Aunt Martha’s jubilee on time, dressed to the nines, with smiles pasted on.
We really do have free will, so we can really choose God, or we can choose not-God. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion, so I’ve been told, and He really, really wants us to choose Him so the opportunities are many, but for each person there comes a moment of final judgment.
As my Catechism says,
1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven–through a purification594 or immediately,595— or immediate and everlasting damnation.596
In other words, at the moment of our deaths, the Lord will allow us to see our lives clearly and understand them and the just judgement that He renders will either be for us to live with Him forever in Heaven, for many of us after we are made perfect through a purification (we call it Purgatory — pray for those souls), for others who are already ready to live immediately in the fullness of the Lord, or, to live without Him forever in the state of Hell.
Hell is not other people, but rather the absence of the Lord, so it really is a choice that we men are capable of making.
One might argue against this point by saying that, well, like a loving parent, who knows that the child will be happier if he is made to attend Aunt Martha’s party well dressed and pleasantly behaved, God, who is so much more loving than any parent can be, would want our happiness and would not allow us to choose Hell, so it can’t really be a thing. His mercy is infinite!
I disagree. I believe in mercy, but I also believe the Lord’s justice is without end, and I know there are really depths in the human soul that are capable of great evil. Some people choose Hell, of this I am sure.
And the Lord who loves us all with a boundless, infinite love, gives it to them. Of that, I am also sure.