Avoiding Hell

Latin Mass: 7th Sunday after Pentecost
Beloved in the Lord, on October 18th 1985, Father Steven Scheier[i], while traveling to his parish in Kansas, was involved in an accident: a head-on collision. He was unconscious at the scene. Behind him in the ambulance on the way to the hospital was a nurse, who tried to help him with the Hail Mary but she couldn’t remember all of it; He had suffered a broken neck, a C2, the hangman’s break. He tells, that on the edge of life and death, he found himself alone in another dimension, standing before the judgment of God. At that moment, Jesus Christ took him through his entire life and showed him how he had failed as a priest. Fr. Scheier said “yes” to everything Jesus said, about his life.
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He admits that he was a lax priest, without a solid spiritual life; “I could not stand peer pressure, he says. I wanted to be one of the guys. The priests at that time wanted to talk about peace and love; not morality, or dogma, or what the Church is about, because this made one unpopular – You had to tell the people what they wanted to hear.’ ‘I just wanted to follow the crowd.
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So there, before God, the ‘Lord went through all my unconfessed and mortal sins, he says. There was much said in regards to my life. The only thing that I could say was: ‘Yes, that’s true,’ to each thing. I had no excuse. At the end of his speaking, the Lord said, ‘The sentence you will have for all eternity is Hell.’   “I thought to myself, ‘This is what I deserve.’ The Lord was merely honoring my choice.
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Friends in Christ, Today in the Gospel our Lord says ‘Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit, will be cut down, and cast into the fire.’ Our life needs to bring forth good fruit for Jesus Christ, or else our long-term future will not be pretty. Jesus uses the example of a tree, upon which he is looking for good fruit; our life is the tree. A tree grows, and it grows into something.
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At the end of our life therefore, each of us will BE something, for good or bad; a person of good character, a disciple of Christ – or not. At birth, we become a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. We have the Divine Life in us, but then – what do we do with it? If our will turns away from the Lord, we cut off that Divine Life, the Holy Spirit leaves us. We remain a member of the Body of Christ, but a dead member. At the end of our life, we will find whether we have the Supernatural life in us, with our will united to God, or, our will set against God.
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Many will say, that even though they have committed mortal sins they do not hate God. Fair enough. But a selfish life, thinking only of one’s self and ignoring God and his commandments – this is perhaps very common- Father Frank Sheed[ii] says, a man might go through life ignoring the Lord, not hating him, yet building up such a love of self that he has only to be confronted with God, in order to hate him. After death, God cannot be ignored; then the love of self will bring to the surface the hatred of God which has always been implicit.
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St. Alphonsus says, ‘why torture yourself saying, ‘I wonder if I will end up in heaven or hell.’ When the tree is cut down, it falls to the side that it had been leaning. So, to what side do you lean? Toward God, or away?
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All sinners hope that they will be saved, but in the mean time, by the way they live, they condemn themselves to hell. St. Augustine says,[iii] ‘Who is so foolish as to take poison with the hope of escaping death? Yet many Christians who are fools, kill their souls and then believe there will be a cure. When Jesus describes our life to us at the judgment, we will nod and agree, that what he says is exactly true. And we will ourselves know immediately where we are to go.
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Few people explicitly hate God in this life. They ignore him, so that they may live as they please and follow the crowd. But when such a person must face God, all will turn to hate.
If a husband is unfaithful or evil, he avoids the face of his wife; although there are in him seeds of a love which once was, he avoids her and he may even leave. But if it should be that he must face her, those seeds of love can turn to hate. When police find a gruesome murder, where the victim’s face has been gashed, they first suspect a lover, because love turns into the worst hatred.
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God, who is pure love, has been loving us all life-long. The sinner who must face God at judgment will find his heart full of hate, and he will go where he knows he must. As scripture says: ‘Man shall go into the house of his eternity.’ (Ecclesiastes, 12:5) Each person will go to the house that he wishes to go. He won’t be carried there, he will go by his own choice.[iv]
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‘Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father, he shall enter the kingdom of heaven.’
It is not hard to go to heaven; it is a matter of not following the crowd; of setting our life on the path Jesus has for us – of choosing to do God’s will. Thomas Aquinas’ sister asked him, ‘How can I become a saint.’ ‘Just WILL it,’ he said. Decide to do it.
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It is not hard to go to heaven, but we must decide. A lady once wrote to St. Francis de Sales[v] about her fear of death and of hell which troubled her soul. He wrote back: ‘Put aside self-seeking and leave yourself totally in God’s hands. He will either deliver you from this fear, or he will enable you to bear it. God is too good to reject a person who does not wish to be a hypocrite. Say often to God, ‘I am yours, save me.’ And he will do so, dear child.’
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We all must face the judgment of Christ, as to our life. I mentioned Father Steve Scheier, and the horrible judgment he received: ‘Your sentence is hell.’ But that was not the end of that priest’s experience. After Jesus, he heard another voice, a woman’s voice. The voice said, ‘Son, would you please spare his life. ‘Mother, he has been a priest for 12 years, for himself, not for me. Let him reap the punishment he deserves.
But she said, ‘Son, if we give to him special grace and strength, and see if he bears fruit, then if not, your will be done.’ There was a short pause, and then he said, ‘Mother, he is yours.’ With that, the priest returned to life. Today his life is very different from the lukewarm life he had been living.
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It is not hard to go to heaven. We must decide to, and then do God’s will. It means not following the crowd.
Jesus and Mary, help us to make the tree of our life fruitful, that the Lord will find on it abundant fruit, in the world to come.

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[Entrust to the prayers of St. Mary of Egypt]

 

[i] His experience is recounted in the National Catholic Register, Aug 19, 2011.

[ii] Map of Life, p. 137

[iii] Preparation for Death, p. 149.

[iv] Preparation for Death, p. 148

[v] Paraphrased from the Spiritual Letters of St. Francis de Sales, p. 194.

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