本欄今天談到「萬民四末」的第四末，也是最後的題項 —— 地獄。
地獄之苦總概有「失落之苦」和「感覺之苦」。靈魂因在地獄中永遠不能見到美善的天主，且原屬於祂的卻永遠與祂分離，故此感到極度「失落之苦」。路加福音13:28記載耶穌向猶太人論及地獄之苦：『幾時你們望見亞巴郎、依撒格、雅各伯及眾先知在天主的國裏，你們卻被棄在外，那裏要有哀號和切齒。』「感覺之苦」主要是指火燒的懲罰。耶穌會會士若望.赫頓John Hardon神父寫道：「（地獄的）那火使人身心受到極度煎熬、折磨，而卻不被燒毁。」瑪竇福音3:12記載耶穌說過：『... 至於糠秕，卻要用不滅的火焚燒。』
「基督深知離開祂就是地獄，與祂在一起就是天堂。祂亦明白，有很多靈魂卻沒有領會，那永久離開祂的痛苦是何等可怕，實際上比感覺上的痛苦更為痛苦、更為可怕；所以，祂給我們強調了地獄內被火燒痛苦的可怕 —— 雖然這會使我們覺得祂是易怒和嚴厲的判官，而非令人嚮往和渴望那位仁愛和慈悲的天主 —— 讓我們因害怕火燒，傾向尋求天堂的永福。」
To hell in a handbasket
In this article we look into the last of the four things to be ever remembered: hell.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell.
“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” (CCC #1035).
Pain of loss and pain of sense
The above passage from the Catechism reminds us the souls in hell suffer the pain of loss and the pain of sense. The pain of loss consists in the everlasting deprivation of the vision of God for which man was created.
Jesus foretold, “There will be weeping and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside” (Lk. 13:28).
The pain of sense consists principally in punishment by fire. Father John Hardon, SJ, wrote, “It is a fire that causes pain to body and soul without consuming the one in torment.” Jesus Himself said, “The chaff He will burn in fire that will never go out” (Mt. 3:12).
Hell is difficult to conceptualize and damnation is a mystery. Why does an all-good God condemn His creatures to hell? Father Hardon answers, “God, Who is all-good, allows His creatures to condemn themselves to hell because He does not interfere with their freedom. They voluntarily choose to reject Him, and in His justice He permits them to remain separated from the God they rejected.”
Dom Eugene Boylan, OCSO, invited us to view the punishment of hell in light of the love of God. He wrote, “He [Christ] knew that to be without Him would be a grievous hell, to be with Him sweet paradise. He knew too, that many souls would never understand the fearful suffering which eternal separation from Him would cause.
“In showing to them the lesser sufferings of the fires of hell, He hopes to deter them from ruining their eternal happiness, even though He sees the danger that they may regard Him rather as an angry and stern judge than as their ardent and merciful lover, as someone to be dreaded rather than to be desired.”
Blessed Jacinta Marto
On July 13, 1917, Our Lady showed three children in Fatima, Portugal, a terrifying vision of hell. On Aug. 19 she said, “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”
The vision made a great impression on Jacinta Marto, and from then on her life was marked by the constant concern over the “poor sinners” in danger of hell. She would exclaim, “Oh, hell! hell! How sorry I am for the souls who go to hell, and the people down there, burning alive, like wood in the fire!”
Sometimes she would cry out, “So many people fall down into hell! so many people! and nobody pays any heed; they continue to commit the same sins.”
Shortly before her death Jacinta said, “More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” Jacinta prayed a lot, did many acts of penance, and offered up her sufferings of illness and death for the conversion of sinners.
Following the example of Blessed Jacinta, let us pray, suffer, and labour for the salvation of souls.
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