Friday, December 19, 2014

Pope Francis and Hell

Here are some highlights of a recent homily by Pope Francis, as reported by CNA.  It's noteworthy because the Pope touches on the least popular and most politically incorrect teaching of the Church today.  He doesn't use the word "damnation", but he's talking about it, about the mystery of our closed hearts, for hell is simply the eternal consequence of a a closed heart ...

... many Christians today ... feel “pure” simply because they go to mass and receive communion, the Pope noted, explaining that God asks for more.
“If your heart is not a repentant heart, if you do not listen to the Lord, if you don’t accept correction and you do not trust in Him, your heart is unrepentant,” he said, observing how the Pharisees were “hypocrites” for being scandalized at the attention Jesus gave to prostitutes and tax collectors.

This is a much more unpopular teaching than you'd expect, especially among the sort of Catholics who read this blog.  I call them Devout Catholics, or sometimes sarcastically "Super Catholics".  I know them well.  I am one of them.

We take a secret pride in being a cut above the rest.  We know what the Church teaches and we follow it - unless it's a Church teaching we don't want to follow.  We're "pro life" but we think that Lying and Torture can fit into a pro-life plan.  We're "pro family", but emotional adultery over the internet is no big deal.  We despise Catholic Social Teaching because it's "liberal", and nobody makes us madder than those lazy poor people.  We make bad choices and stick to them; we betray friends if it's convenient and use the Catholic thing as a kind of fashion or identifying badge, as if our religion were similar to the clothes we wear or the music we listen to.  We clutch at and tenaciously hold on to our sins, but we don't see them as sins.  We go to Mass and patronize Catholic media and have a kind of pop-understanding of salvation, but we live the way we want to, dammit - and if anybody comes close to our "precious", we'll get nasty.

He recalled the story of a Saint who believed that he had given everything to God with great generosity. However in a conversation with the Lord, the saint was told that there was still something he was holding onto.
When the saint asked what it was that he still had not given, the Lord replied “Your sins,” the pontiff recalled.
The moment in which we are able to tell the Lord “these are my sins – they are not his or hers, they are mine…take them” will be the moment when we become that “meek and humble people” who trust in God, the Pope said, and prayed that “the Lord grant us this grace.”

There's little we can do about most things that trouble us in the world and in the Church, like the Synod or the decline of culture or "gay marriage".

But we can indeed do one giant, tremendous and terrifying thing.  We can seek first the Kingdom of God, so that all else will follow.  We can take up our cross, whatever it may be, and follow Him.  Our cross could be anything - but we each know what it is in our own personal case - it is the one thing that challenges what we're clutching, it's the one thing that would cure our Dragon Sickness, it is the one thing that would make us forego a selfish life, open our hearts, and live for God and for those around us.

“The humble, poor people that trust in the Lord: these are the ones who are saved and this is the way of the Church, isn’t it? ... This is the path I must follow, not the path in which I do not listen to His voice, do not accept correction and do not trust in the Lord.”

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