I can imagine I am a soul in Hell, and God in His mercy is saying to me, “Return to the world for this year and on your manner of life during the year will depend your returning to Hell or not.” What a life I should lead! How little I should think of suffering, of mortification! How I would rejoice in suffering! How perfectly each moment would be spent!
COMMENT: The thought of Hell is an unpleasant one. Yet the Gospel contains numerous references to the possibility of eternal damnation. Perhaps the spiritual and devotional practices of previous generations were a little too focussed on this topic; in contrast much contemporary spirituality goes too far in the opposite direction and ignores it altogether. Swinging the pendulum to the other extreme does not make up for the mistakes of the past, it simply compounds them with other mistakes.
Whether we envision Hell as a place of burning fires or as a state of eternal regret and depression for the loss of God, it is clear that it is a place/state we should do everything in our power to avoid. The mental exercise in Fr Doyle’s quote today is a very valuable one as we start the new year. If we knew this was to be our last year, how differently we might live it!
However, the reality of our situation is even more acute than this mental exercise. Our eternal destiny does not depend on how we live this year, but how we live this moment! Let us always strive to live in the presence of God and to strenuously avoid those sins that destroy the life of grace in our soul.