Friday, January 27, 2017

What do we present about HELL in proclamation and dialogue (mission)?

In mission one of the misunderstandings is that the missionary promotes the Church plus salvation in the Church. So if people do not "join" and if people insist staying in their own religions, "they go to hell". So hell is about religion. Hell is about "in-which-religion-do-you-belong"?
This is not Biblical nor is it really in Church tradition. So let us reflect on this.

1.  Hell scandalizes. Hell exists, according to scriptures and Church tradition. Yet God is love. So there is a paradox. How do we accept the existence of hell if God is love? This is a very hard question to answer and it can scandalize. This is why many modern people do not believe in hell. They say it does not exist. If hell exists, then what kind of God allows such a terrible horror?

2,  Let us see. There is the idea of HELL, ok. In the Bible we read words like sheol and hades. It is in the Jewish tradition to believe in sheol and hades. Sheol is the place where the dead goes.

3.  In the Christian faith Christ came and WON OVER DEATH. His resurrection is proof of this victory. We say and pray "he descended into hell". By going to hell Christ invited the residents there to join him and get out of that sorrowful place. (See icons about the Resurrection in the Eastern traditions of Christianity.) Anyone who wants to stay there, in hell, can stay. So notice a CHANGE in our perspective about hell. Hell stops being a place of the dead. It becomes the place of PEOPLE WHO REFUSE THE LOVE OF CHRIST. It becomes the place of PEOPLE WHO REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE INVITATION OF CHRIST TO BE FREE FROM THE HORROR. In our Christian faith therefore hell represents REFUSAL.

4.  Ok, let us not make a fuss over what Scriptures and Church Tradition say. Church councils, in the past, have declared that hell exists. Because of "mortal sin" one goes to hell. Also Church tradition says that hell is eternal. The CCC states that

      "the chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from  God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for
       which he longs" (#1035).

5.  We need to keep certain things here in mind.

     a. GOD IS LOVE. It is a love that wants good for us. But this love does not impose. (Just think, if someone forces me to love him/her, then my "yes"
         will not be true will be forced love; it is not love!). The human can say NO to God. The human can say NO to the love of God.
     b. GOD DID NOT CREATE HELL. God does not want anyone to go to hell (see CCC#1037).It is the human person, in free will, who decides to create
         hell. The human, in free will, can always reject all
         communion with God. Hell is defined according to human choice.
     c. We can add that HELL IS ALREADY IN OUR MIDST, HERE IN HISTORY AND IN SOCIETY. We have wars and violence and injustice... we see all forms
         of rejecting God. We see all forms of REFUSING God and the love of God and choosing to live in hatred and indifference. There is hell among us.

6. Note then that what we present in mission is not about "belonging to a religion".  It is about the path of God who is so concerned about the human condition (and not about ïn which religion you belong"). In inclusivistic thinking then, allowing for a theology of the "Seeds of the Word", people of other religion may not belong to the Church and they may continue to insist in staying in their religions. Vatican II already acknowledge religious liberty. The Church has NO RIGHT TO IMPOSE THE FAITH ON OTHERS. Still, within the perspective of our faith, we can admit that really, as people live in the light of God's love they do not go to hell. In mission we present what our Scriptures and Tradition say; note that what we say has no place for condemnation of anyone.

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