I have been really bothered lately. As I put together content for this site, and teach in the parish and school, I’m wondering if being nice is actually being helpful. Here’s my problem: I’m deeply concerned that people might be going to Hell on my watch. I’m deeply concerned that I am putting my own soul at risk by not being much more clear about what the Lord calls us to. I’m scared that in my desire to be nice and kind, that I am not transmitting the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in.
I’m not a fire and brimstone guy, but at the same time, Hell is a very real possibility. Our Lord talked about the dangers of this possibility a whole lot, and warned us that the way to Hell is wide, and many people take it. While I deeply wish everyone went to Heaven, I don’t think we can look at Jesus’ words seriously and not realize that that danger is very real. I am concerned that by teaching the deep love of God and the everlasting mercy of God without talking about the danger of sin leading us astray, that too many people take that moment to feel good about themselves as they are, and end up not availing themselves of either His love or His mercy.
Maybe it’s part of our human condition that makes unable to see the one without the other. Maybe we have to be scared into obedience, and then find the love we seek. I don’t know. The truth is, I hate talking about scary things, I hate talking about the danger our immortal souls are in, and I hate thinking about how my own callousness and sin could put me in a place to where I to may not be able to escape my own evil. I want to talk about the good stuff, I want people to be happy when they leave my door.
I am worried I may be acting the fool. Jesus was not scared to talk about Hell, he was rather consistent about it for the very reason that he wanted to save us from it. Do I really think we have “evolved” beyond His words, His reasoning? There seems to be this current of speech which almost claims that everyone is going to Heaven, that God loves us so much, that He will find a way to make it all work out fine. This makes absolutely no sense to me. If that were true, then Jesus wasted a whole lot of breath on a pointless issue, and Jesus was too concise to waste words. Jesus was worried for us, and told us, and we just don’t like to talk about it. Maybe we are all being fools.
Reading the Church Fathers and the Saints worries me even more. Their words pour with the love of God, but they never hold back on the dangers sin brings either. They are constant in their call to repentance and are merciless when it comes to sin, first in themselves of course, but they do not hold back in regards its consequences either.
The confession lines bear this out even more, there are days when I find them empty. There are people coming to communion every week that have told me point blank they haven’t been to confession in years. My admonishment seems to fall on deaf ears. How have we reached this sorry state, where we are so blind to sin we don’t even feel the need to be forgiven, where we feel we are just fine and good enough with all of our mess to approach the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?
How do we speak of this in the modern age? Were I to simply read the Church Fathers aloud in Mass, I fear many would get up and walk out. Were I to read the homilies of the Saints, they would call my bishop. Maybe it was the same for the Saints, and if I truly want to emulate them, then I need to do so in this as well. But I am equally frightened that souls walking out my door is on my conscience as well, and that in charity, I need to slowly help them move towards holiness. I realize that the key thing here is becoming more holy myself, but how do we express the gravity of our mortal situation in this age of political correctness?