“The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.” With these words, Francis closed his first Way of the Cross in the Coliseum as Bishop of Rome, during a brief speech that foreshadowed his future preaching centered on pardon and mercy. The Pontiff explained, in an original manner, the meaning of the immolation of the Lamb of God, who had offered his life on the Cross to transmit a word of love, stronger than that of justice.
In this matter, what Catholic doctrine truly teaches us is that the Son of God sacrificed his life on the saving tree for the human race, which had been deprived of the life of grace and impeded to enjoy eternal happiness due to its sins. His offering made reparation to the Father for the great abyss of sin that separated us from him, opening the doors of heaven. Therefore, it was an act of the highest justice.
The process of one’s justification and salvation involves a long journey of perseverance, which consists of abandoning sin through divine aid. Saint Irenaeus teaches: “The Father, therefore, who has prepared the kingdom for the righteous, into which the Son has received those worthy of it, is He who has also prepared the furnace of fire, into which these angels commissioned by the Son of man shall send those persons who deserve it, according to God’s command” (Against Heresies, bk. IV, ch. 40). All will depend on the inmost dispositions of the individual and his or her correspondence to God’s designs. What is certain is that the problem of judgment, the gravity of sin and of eternal damnation continues beyond the sacrifice of Calvary, as much as we may wish to dismiss its importance.
Nevertheless, when we hear that ‘the Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world’ and the interpretation that followed this beautiful affirmation, can we be assured that what is being conveyed is truly orthodox? Rather, might this not be a saying in keeping with a pontificate which ‘makes no response to evil’ and prefers to ‘maintain silence’ in this regard? What are we to think of such a statement within the atmosphere of a Year of Mercy, whose meaning no one has yet clearly understood.
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One word should suffice this evening, that is the Cross itself. The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. It is also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us.
Let us remember this: God judges us by loving us
. If I embrace his love then I am saved
, if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns, he only loves and saves.
(Address, Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, March 29, 2013
And ‘hope is that Christian virtue that we have as a great gift from God that lets us see
far beyond, beyond the problems, beyond the pain and difficulties, beyond our sins’. It shows us ‘the beauty of God’.
‘Hope’, therefore, is the key word, he said. And ‘when I am with a person who has the virtue of hope and is in a difficult moment in his life – be it a disease, concern for a son or daughter or someone in the family, or anything. But he has this virtue, in the midst of pain his eyes have been opened. He has the freedom to see beyond, always beyond’. This is precisely ‘the hope, the prophecy that the Church gives us today: she needs men and women of hope, even in the midst of problems’. Because ‘hope opens horizons, hope is freeing, it does not enslave and it always finds a way to set a situation straight’.
In the passage from the Gospel of Matthew (21:23-27) from the day’s Liturgy, the Pope continued, ‘we see instead men who do not have this freedom, who have no horizons, men who are closed in their calculations’. Such that the chief priests and elders of the people ask the Lord: ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’. When Jesus poses his next question, they make their calculations. ‘If I say this I have this danger, and if I say that…’. Then they answer ‘we do not know’. However, the Pope remarked, ‘human calculations close the heart, they block freedom’. It is ‘hope’ that ‘lightens’ our load. Therefore, it is ‘this hypocrisy of the doctors of the law that we see in the Gospel, which closes the heart: it enslaves us. These men were slaves’. ‘How beautiful is the freedom, magnanimity and hope of a man and a woman of the Church’, the Pope affirmed. And ‘how awful and how much harm is done by the rigidity of a woman and man of the Church: clerical rigidity, which has no hope’. ‘In this Year of Mercy’
, the Pope said, ‘there are these two paths’. On one side there are ‘those who have hope in the mercy of God and know that God is Father’, that ‘God always forgives’, and that he forgives ‘everything’. That ‘beyond the desert there is the embrace of the Father, forgiveness’. However, on the other hand ‘there are also those who take refuge in slavery, in its very rigidity, and they know nothing of God’s mercy’. The doctors mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew ‘had studied, but their knowledge did not save them’.
(Homily in Domus Sanctae Marthae, December 14, 2015
This causes the Church to suffer a lot. The closed hearts,
hearts of stone, hearts which do not want to be opened, that do not want to hear, hearts which only know the language of condemnation. They know how to condemn
and do not know how to say ‘Explain, why do you say this? Why? Explain it to me.’ No, they are closed. They know everything and have no need of explanations! […] To the other group, to those who are closed within the rigidity of the law, who do not want to hear, Jesus said a lot; even uglier things than Stephen said. The same thing happened with the adulterous woman, who was a sinner. Each one of us enters into dialogue with Jesus and the victim of the hearts of stone: the adulterous. To those who wanted to stone her, Jesus only responds: “Look within yourselves.” And, today, we see this tenderness of Jesus: the testimony of obedience, the Great Witness, Jesus, who gave his life, he makes us see the tenderness of God in relation to us, toward our sins, and our weaknesses. We enter into this dialogue and ask for the grace that the Lord soften the rigid hearts of these people, those who are always closed within the Law and condemn everything that is outside of this Law.
(Homily, Santa Marta, May 2, 2017
– English summary
The figure that helps me understand the attitude of the Lord with the lost sheep is the comportment of the Lord with Judas. The most perfect lost sheep of the Gospel is Judas:
a man who always, always had something bitter in his heart, something to criticize the others about, he was always distant. He did not know the sweetness of gratitude in living with all of the others. And, always, this sheep was not satisfied – Judas was not a satisfied man! – , he fled. He fled because he was a thief, and went out, alone. Others are impure, others…But they always escape because they have this darkness in their heart that separates them from the flock. And this double life, this double life that so many Christians, even – and I say this with sorrow, curates, bishops…And Judas was a bishop, one of the first bishops. The lost sheep. Poor him! Poor brother Judas,
as padre Mazzolati called him in that beautiful sermon: Brother Judas, what happened to your heart? We should understand the lost sheep.
We also always have some little thing, little or not so little, of the lost sheep. That which the lost sheep does is not so much an error, but a sickness that he has in his heart that the devil takes advantage of.
In this way, Judas, with his divided heart and unsocial attitude, is the icon of the lost sheep that the shepherd seeks. But Judas did not understand, and in the end, when he sees what his double life provokes within the community, the evil that he sowed with his interior darkness, which made him always flee, searching for lights that were not the light of the Lord but lights like Christmas decorations, artificial lights – he despaired. There is a word in the Bible – the Lord is good, even with these sheep, he never fails to seek them – there is a word that says that Judas hanged himself, he repented and hanged himself. (Mt 27, 3) I believe that the Lord took this word and brought it with him, I don´t know, perhaps, but this word makes us doubt.
What does this word mean? That until the end the love of God worked in that soul, until the moment of despair. And this is the attitude of the Good Shepherd with the strayed sheep. This is the proclamation, the good news that brings us Christmas and asks of us this sincere happiness that changes the heart, that brings us to allow ourselves to be consoled by the Lord, and not with the fleeting consolations that we seek, to flee from reality, from interior torture, interior division. When he found the lost sheep, Jesus did not insult it, even though it had done so much wrong. In the Garden of Olives he calls Judas “friend”. These are the caresses of God.
Who doesn´t know about the caresses of the Lord doesn´t know about Christian doctrine! He who doesn´t allow himself to be caressed by the Lord is lost! And this is the good news, this is the sincere happiness that we wish for today. This is the happiness, this is the consolation that we seek: that the Lord come with his power, that are the caresses, his meeting up with us, to save us, as the lost sheep, and bring us to the flock of his Church. May the Lord grant us this grace to await Christmas with our wounds, with our sins, sincerely thankful, to await the power of this God that comes to console us, and comes with power, but his power is tenderness, the caresses that are born from his heart, this heart that is so good that he gave his life for us.
(Homily in Santa Marta, December 6, 2016
God always opens doors, he never closes them. He is the daddy who opens doors for us.
The second thing he says is: don’t be afraid of tenderness. When Christians forget about hope and tenderness they become a cold Church, that does not know where to go
and is entangled in ideologies and worldly attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells you: go forward, I am a Father who caresses you. I start to fear when Christians lose hope and the capacity to embrace and caress
[…] The Bible clearly shows that God’s main virtue is that He is love. He waits for us; he never tires of waiting for us. He gives us the gift and then waits for us.
(La Stampa Interview, December 16, 2013
God’s justice is his mercy
given to everyone as a grace that flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus the Cross of Christ is God’s judgement on all of us and on the whole world, because through it he offers us the certitude of love and new life.
(Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee of Mercy, April 11, 2015
Teachings of the Magisterium
Enter in the various parts of our study
I – Is mercy always God’s only response to evil?
II – The Cross of Christ: mercy for some, scandal for others
III – To be saved it is not enough to profess the name of Christ, it is necessary to convert and live in the grace of God
IV – What does Catholic doctrine say about the final judgment and divine justice?
V – God even punishes in this life, for He wishes to save us in his loving care
VI – Doctrinal explanation regarding mortal sin, the only condition for eternal condemnation
I – Is mercy always God’s only response to evil?
Due to man’s wickedness the Lord wiped out every living thing on earth in the epoch of Noah
When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved. So the Lord said: ‘I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created, and not only the men, but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them.’ But Noah found favor with the Lord. […] In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month: it was on that day that All the fountains of the great abyss burst forth, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. For forty days and forty nights heavy rain poured down on the earth. […] The swelling waters increased greatly, but the ark floated on the surface of the waters. Higher and higher above the earth rose the waters, until all the highest mountains everywhere were submerged, the crest rising fifteen cubits higher than the submerged mountains. All creatures that stirred on earth perished: birds, cattle, wild animals, and all that swarmed on the earth, as well as all mankind. Everything on dry land with the faintest breath of life in its nostrils died out. The Lord wiped out every living thing on earth: man and cattle, the creeping things and the birds of the air; all were wiped out from the earth. Only Noah and those with him in the ark were left. The waters maintained their crest over the earth for one hundred and fifty days. (Gen 6:5 – 8; 7:11 – 12, 18 – 24)
The Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah
‘Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? […] Still he went on, ‘Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?’ ‘I will not destroy it,’ he answered, ‘for the sake of the twenty.’ […] at the same time the Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah (from the Lord out of heaven). He overthrew those cities and the whole Plain, together with the inhabitants of the cities and the produce of the soil. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt. (Gen 18:24,32; 19:24 – 26)
‘To those who failed to heed my voice, not one shall see the land which I promised’
But Moses said to the Lord: […] ‘Pardon, then, the wickedness of this people in keeping with your great kindness, even as you have forgiven them from Egypt until now.’ The Lord answered: ‘I pardon them as you have asked. Yet, by my life and the Lord’s glory that fills the whole earth, of all the men who have seen my glory and the signs I worked in Egypt and in the desert, and who nevertheless have put me to the test ten times already and have failed to heed my voice, not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their fathers. None of these who have spurned me shall see it.’ (Num 14:13, 19 – 23)
The Lord’s threat to the wicked community that grumbled against him: ‘Here in the desert they shall die to the last man’
The Lord also said to Moses and Aaron: ‘How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the Israelites against me. Tell them: By my life, says the Lord, I will do to you just what I have heard you say. Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall. Of all your men of twenty years or more, registered in the census, who grumbled against me, not one shall enter the land where I solemnly swore to settle you, except Caleb, son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, son of Nun. Your little ones, however, who you said would be taken as booty, I will bring in, and they shall appreciate the land you spurned. But as for you, your bodies shall fall here in the desert, here where your children must wander for forty years, suffering for your faithlessness, till the last of you lies dead in the desert. Forty days you spent in scouting the land; forty years shall you suffer for your crimes: one year for each day. Thus you will realize what it means to oppose me. I, the, have sworn to do this to all this wicked community that conspired against me: here in the desert they shall die to the last man.’ And so it happened to the men whom Moses had sent to reconnoiter the land and who on returning had set the whole community grumbling against him by spreading discouraging reports about the land; these men who had given out the bad report about the land were struck down by the Lord and died. (Num 14:26 – 37)
God punishes the insolent: The earth opened its mouth and they went down alive to the nether world
Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, but they answered, ‘We will not go.’ […] The Lord answered Moses, ‘Speak to the community and tell them: Withdraw from the space around the Dwelling’ (of Korah, Dathan and Abiram). Moses, followed by the elders of Israel, arose and went to Dathan and Abiram. Then he warned the community, ‘Keep away from the tents of these wicked men and do not touch anything that is theirs: otherwise you too will be swept away because of all their sins.’ When Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing at the entrances of their tents with their wives and sons and little ones, Moses said, ‘This is how you shall know that it was the Lord who sent me to do all I have done, and that it was not I who planned it: if these men die an ordinary death, merely suffering the fate common to all mankind, then it was not the Lord who sent me. But if the Lord does something entirely new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them alive down into the nether world, with all belonging to them, then you will know that these men have defied the Lord.’ No sooner had he finished saying all this than the ground beneath them split open, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their families (and all of Korah’s men) and all their possessions. They went down alive to the nether world with all belonging to them; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the community. But all the Israelites near them fled at their shrieks, saying, ‘The earth might swallow us too!’ So they withdrew from the space around the Dwelling (of Korah, Dathan and Abiram). And fire from the Lord came forth which consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense. (Num 16:12.23 – 35)
God repays with destruction the person who hates him
Understand, then, that the Lord, your God, is God indeed, the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant down to the thousandth generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments, but who repays with destruction the person who hates him; he does not dally with such a one, but makes him personally pay for it. You shall therefore carefully observe the commandments, the statutes and the decrees which I enjoin on you today. (Deut 7:9 – 11)
Due to their evil the Israelites were delivered to the Philistines for forty years
The Israelites again offended the Lord, who therefore delivered them into the power of the Philistines for forty years. (Judges 13:1)
‘I will honor those who honor me, but those who spurn me shall be accursed’
Now the sons of Eli were wicked; they had respect neither for the Lord […] Thus the young men sinned grievously in the presence of the Lord; they treated the offerings to the Lord with disdain. […] When Eli was very old, he heard repeatedly how his sons were treating all Israel (and that they were having relations with the women serving at the entry of the meeting tent). […] A man of God came to Eli and said to him: ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘I went so far as to reveal myself to your father’s family when they were in Egypt as slaves to the house of Pharaoh. I chose them out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priests, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear the ephod before me; and I assigned all the oblations of the Israelites to your father’s family. Why do you keep a greedy eye on my sacrifices and on the offerings which I have prescribed? And why do you honor your sons in preference to me, fattening yourselves with the choicest part of every offering of my people Israel?’ This, therefore, is the oracle of the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘I said in the past that your family and your father’s family should minister in my presence forever. But now,’ the Lord declares, ‘away with this! for I will honor those who honor me, but those who spurn me shall be accursed. Yes, the time is coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father’s family, so that no man in your family shall reach old age. You shall witness as a disappointed rival all the benefits enjoyed by Israel, but there shall never be an old man in your family. I will permit some of your family to remain at my altar, to wear out their eyes in consuming greed; but the rest of the men of your family shall die by the sword. You shall have a sign in what will happen to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: both shall die on the same day. I will choose a faithful priest who shall do what I have in heart and mind. I will establish a lasting house for him which shall function in the presence of my anointed forever. (1Sam 2:12, 17, 22, 27 – 35; 3:12 – 13; 4:14,17s)
Chastisement for the wicked: ‘During these years there shall be no dew or rain except at my word’
In the thirty-eighth year of Asa, king of Judah, Ahab, son of Omri, became king of Israel; he reigned over Israel in Samaria for twenty-two years. Ahab, son of Omri, did evil in the sight of the Lord more than any of his predecessors. It was not enough for him to imitate the sins of Jeroboam, son of Nebat. He even married Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians, and went over to the veneration and worship of Baal. […] Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab: ‘As the Lord the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, during these years there shall be no dew or rain except at my word.’ […] Long afterward, in the third year, the Lord spoke to Elijah, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab,’ he said, ‘that I may send rain upon the earth.’ (1Kings 16:29 – 31; 17:1; 18:1)
Divine fire came down from heaven consuming the wicked
Then the king sent a captain with his company of fifty men after Elijah. The prophet was seated on a hilltop when he found him. ‘Man of God,’ he ordered, ‘the king commands you to come down.’ ‘If I am a man of God,’ Elijah answered the captain, ‘may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men. Ahaziah sent another captain with his company of fifty men after Elijah. ‘Man of God,’ he called out to Elijah, ‘the king commands you to come down immediately.’ ‘If I am a man of God,’ Elijah answered him, ‘may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ And divine fire came down from heaven, consuming him and his fifty men. Again, for the third time, Ahaziah sent a captain with his company of fifty men. When the third captain arrived, he fell to his knees before Elijah, pleading with him. ‘Man of God,’ he implored him, ‘let my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants, count for something in your sight! Already fire has come down from heaven, consuming two captains with their companies of fifty men. But now, let my life mean something to you!’ Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go down with him; you need not be afraid of him.’ So Elijah left and went down with him and stated to the king: ‘Thus says the Lord: “Because you sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, you shall not leave the bed upon which you lie; instead you shall die.”’ Ahaziah died in fulfillment of the prophecy of the Lord spoken by Elijah. Since he had no son, his brother Joram succeeded him as king, in the second year of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. (2 Kings 1:9 – 17)
The prophet cursed them in the name of the Lord
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. ‘Go up, baldhead,’ they shouted, ‘go up, baldhead!’ The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the children to pieces. From there he went to Mount Carmel, and thence he returned to Samaria. (2 Kings 2:23 – 25)
The Lord’s strong but holy words to the Pharisees: ‘You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?’
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out! You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna? Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Mt 23:23 – 36)
Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem, unfaithful city
As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If this day you only knew what makes for peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.’ (Lk 19:41 – 44)
Jesus made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’ His disciples recalled the words of scripture, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ (Jn 2:13 – 17)
The punishment of Ananias and Sapphira for lying to God was sudden death
A man named Ananias, however, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. He retained for himself, with his wife’s knowledge, some of the purchase price, took the remainder, and put it at the feet of the apostles. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God.’ When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last, and great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours, his wife came in, unaware of what had happened. Peter said to her, ‘Tell me, did you sell the land for this amount?’ She answered, ‘Yes, for that amount.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen, the footsteps of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ At once, she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men entered they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. (Acts 5:1 – 10)
In Salamis Paul cursed a false prophet: ‘You will be blind’
When they arrived in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They had John also as their assistant. When they had traveled through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a magician named Bar-Jesus who was a Jewish false prophet. He was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who had summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is what his name means) opposed them in an attempt to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of (the) Lord? Even now the hand of the Lord is upon you. You will be blind, and unable to see the sun for a time.’ Immediately a dark mist fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he came to believe, for he was astonished by the teaching about the Lord. (Acts 13:5 – 12)
II – The Cross of Christ: mercy for some, scandal for others
For not believing in the Son of God, many will die in their sins
He said to them again, ‘I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.’ So the Jews said, ‘He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, Where I am going you cannot come?’ He said to them, ‘You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.’ (Jn 8:21 – 24)
Christ crucified: a stumbling block and foolishness for many
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1Cor 1:22 – 25)
Christ is the cornerstone, but also the stone which the builders rejected
Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall.’ They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. (1Pet 2:7 – 8)
The same Father prepared the kingdom for the righteous and the furnace of fire for the evil
The Father, therefore, who has prepared the kingdom for the righteous, into which the Son has received those worthy of it, is He who has also prepared the furnace of fire, into which these angels commissioned by the Son of man shall send those persons who deserve it, according to God’s command. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Hersies, book IV, ch. 40, 2)
III – To be saved it is not enough to profess the name of Christ, it is necessary to convert and live in the grace of God
To enter the kingdom of heaven: It is not enough to say that one adheres to Christ, one must do His will
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Mt 7:21 – 23)
You have approached God, the judge of all - See to it that no one be deprived of grace
See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled, that no one be an immoral or profane person like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit his father’s blessing, he was rejected because he found no opportunity to change his mind, even though he sought the blessing with tears. You have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them, for they could not bear to hear the command: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so fearful was the spectacle that Moses said, ‘I am terrified and trembling.’ No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel. (Heb 12:15 – 24)
We who have received the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude
See that you do not reject the one who speaks. For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven. […] Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12:25-29)
Being reconciled to God is necessary for salvation
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. […] For he says: ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’. (2Cor 5:20, 6:2)
The evil will not enter the kingdom of heaven…
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1Cor 6:9 – 11)
…nor the immoral, or impure or greedy person
Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph 5:5)
Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example of the punishment of eternal fire
I wish to remind you, although you know all things, that (the) Lord who once saved a people from the land of Egypt later destroyed those who did not believe. The angels too, who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains, in gloom, for the judgment of the great day. Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 5 – 7)
Keep yourselves in the love of God
But you, beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they told you, ‘In (the) last time there will be scoffers who will live according to their own godless desires.’ These are the ones who cause divisions; they live on the natural plane, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 17 – 23)
Eternal salvation is only granted to those who live well
Knowing, then, that some wicked christens had taken advantage of some difficult passages of the Apostle Paul in order to not be concerned in living well, presuming themselves secure in the salvation that resides in faith, [Peter] remembered that in his letters there are passages that are difficult to understand, whose meaning – as happens also with the rest of the Scriptures – men distort, for their own perdition: even Paul says, just like the other Apostles, that eternal salvation is granted only to those who live well. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. On Faith and Works, 14, 22)
To promise salvation by means of faith without observance of the commandments is contrary to the Lord’s prescription
The third problem is the most dangerous: when having been little studied and not investigated, according to the divine word, it seems to me that from it [this problem] derives that opinion that promises to all who live in a way that is absolutely perverse and obscene, and persist in these ways of living, that they will have salvation and eternal life so long as they believe in Christ, and receive his sacraments. All this is contrary to the very clear sentence of the Lord, who responded to him who desired eternal life: ‘If you wish to obtain life, keep the commandments;’ and recalled precisely the commandments that prescribe avoiding those sins to which – I do not know how – eternal salvation is promised by means of faith without works, that is, dead faith. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. On Faith and Works, 27, 49)
Those who believed in Christ with no purpose and without fruit will be placed with the evil
For He will come in the glory of His power, who of old condescended to come in the lowliness of humanity; and He will separate all the godly from the ungodly–not only from those who have utterly refused to believe in Him at all, but also from those who have believed in Him to no purpose and without fruit. To the one class He will give an eternal kingdom together with Himself, while to the other He will award eternal punishment together with the devil. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. On the catechizing of the uninstructed Ch. 24, no. 45)
Vice leads to final wretchedness in the next world
In this matter we should note that contrary causes beget contrary effects. Thus action that proceeds from malice is contrary to action that proceeds from virtue. Accordingly wretchedness, in which evil action issues, is the opposite of happiness, which virtuous action merits. Furthermore, contraries pertain to the same genus. Therefore, since final happiness, which is reached by virtuous action, is a good that belongs not to this life but to the next life, as is clear from an earlier discussion, final wretchedness, also, to which vice leads, must be an evil belonging to the next world. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Compendium of Theology, Ch. 173)
It is necessary to be constantly vigilant in order to be numbered among the blessed
Since however we know not the day nor the hour, on Our Lord’s advice we must be constantly vigilant so that, having finished the course of our earthly life (cf. Heb 9:27), we may merit to enter into the marriage feast with Him and to be numbered among the blessed (cf. Mt 25:31-46) and that we may not be ordered to go into eternal fire (cf. Mt 25:41) like the wicked and slothful servant (cf. Mt 25:26), into the exterior darkness where ‘there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth’ (Mt 22:13 and 25:30). (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, no. 48, November 21, 1964)
To die in mortal sin means remaining separated from God forever by our own free choice
We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: ‘He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.’ Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1033)
Conversion without repentance is a false interpretation of grace
Next let us reflect further on this verse: Christ, the Savior, gave to Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins (v. 31) in the Greek text the term is metanoia he gave repentance and pardon for sins. This to me is a very important observation: repentance is a grace. There is an exegetical trend that states that in Galilee Jesus would have proclaimed a grace without conditions, absolutely unconditional, therefore also without penitence, grace as such, without human preconditions. But this is a false interpretation of grace. Repentance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin; it is a grace that we realize the need for renewal, for change, for the transformation of our being. Repentance, the capacity to be penitent, is a gift of grace. And I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word penitence it seemed to us too difficult. (Benedict XVI. Homily for the Eucharistic Concelebration with the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, April 15, 2010)
Conversion: turning away from ‘life according to the flesh’ to the ‘life according to the Spirit’
From the outset, conversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical, and which neither limits nor hinders God’s gift. At the same time, it gives rise to a dynamic and lifelong process which demands a continual turning away from ‘life according to the flesh’ to ‘life according to the Spirit’ (cf. Rom 8:3-13). (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 46, December 7, 1990)
Man is subject to eternal damnation when he freely chooses to reject God’s love and forgiveness
God is the infinitely good and merciful Father. But man, called to respond to him freely, can unfortunately choose to reject his love and forgiveness once and for all, thus separating himself for ever from joyful communion with him. It is precisely this tragic situation that Christian doctrine explains when it speaks of eternal damnation or hell. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 1, July 28, 1999)
Christ requires an adhesion that encompasses the entire person – intelligence, will, feelings, actions and future plans
God has given human beings intellect and will so that they might freely seek, know and love him. Therefore, human freedom is both a resource and a challenge offered to man by God who has created him: an offer directed to the human person’s capacity to know and to love what is good and true. Nothing puts in play human freedom like the search for the good and the true, by inviting it to a kind of commitment which involves fundamental aspects of life. This is particularly the case with salvific truth, which is not only an object of thought, but also an event which encompasses the entire person – intelligence, will, feelings, actions and future plans – when a person adheres to Christ. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization, October 6, 2007)
IV – What does Catholic doctrine say about the final judgment and divine justice?
The Father has given all judgment to his Son
Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father […] Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. (Jn 5:22 – 23, 25–29)
The Son of Man will send his angels to throw evildoers into the fiery furnace
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. […] Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ (Mt 13:41 – 42; 25:41)
Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, and will render to each according to his works: the wicked as well as to the elect
[Firmly we believe and we confess simply that the true God] to come at the end of time, to judge the living and the dead, and to render to each according to his works, to the wicked as well as to the elect, all of whom will rise with their bodies which they now bear, that they may receive according to their works, whether these works have been good or evil, the latter everlasting punishment with the devil, and the former everlasting glory with Christ. (Denzinger-Hünermann 801. Council of Lateran IV, Ch. 1, The Catholic Faith, November 11–30, 1215)
God’s almighty power is in no way arbitrary – nothing escapes His wisdom or justice
God’s almighty power is in no way arbitrary: ‘In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect.’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 25, 5, ad I) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 271)
God is justice and creates justice
The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. Is it not also a frightening image? I would say: it is an image that evokes responsibility, an image, therefore, of that fear of which Saint Hilary spoke when he said that all our fear has its place in love. God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things–justice and grace–must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Spe salvi, no. 44, November 30, 2007)
Regarding the justice of God, that may eternally condemn, see these studies in the Denzinger-Bergoglio
The Lord always pardons, He never condemns
We will be up there in heaven together
The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity
A reinterpretation of the Creed: at the Final Judgement, Jesus Christ will be our advocate and not our judge
V – God even punishes in this life, for in He wishes to save us in his loving care
The Lord does not declare the guilty guiltless, but punishes
The Lord is slow to anger and rich in kindness, forgiving wickedness and crime; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but punishing children to the third and fourth generation for their fathers’ wickedness. (Num 14:18)
Whom the Lord loves he reproves
The discipline of the Lord, my son, disdain not; spurn not his reproof; For whom the Lord loves he reproves, and he chastises the son he favors. (Prov 3:11–12)
He who spares his rod hates his son
He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him takes care to chastise him.(Prov 13:24)
Beat him with the rod, and you will save him from the nether world
Withhold not chastisement from a boy; if you beat him with the rod, he will not die. Beat him with the rod, and you will save him from the nether world. (Prov 23:13-14)
He who loves his son chastises him often
He who loves his son chastises him often, that he may be his joy when he grows up. He who disciplines his son will benefit from him, and boast of him among his intimates. (Sir 30:1)
To correct is to discipline and to love
Pamper your child and he will be a terror for you, indulge him and he will bring you grief. Share not in his frivolity lest you share in his sorrow, when finally your teeth are clenched in remorse. Give him not his own way in his youth, and close not your eyes to his follies. Bend him to the yoke when he is young, thrash his sides while he is still small, Lest he become stubborn, disobey you, and leave you disconsolate. Discipline your son, make heavy his yoke, lest his folly humiliate you. (Sir 30:9 – 13)
‘If you are without discipline you are not sons but bastards’
You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons: ‘My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.’ Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons. For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards. Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not (then) submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live? (Heb 12:5 – 9)
The Lord chastised Moses: he did not enter into the promised land
On that very day the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go up on Mount Nebo, here in the Abarim Mountains (it is in the land of Moab facing Jericho), and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites as their possession. Then you shall die on the mountain you have climbed, and shall be taken to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and there was taken to his people; because both of you broke faith with me among the Israelites at the waters of Meribath – kadesh in the desert of Zin by failing to manifest my sanctity among the Israelites. You may indeed view the land at a distance, but you shall not enter that land which I am giving to the Israelites.’ (Deut 32:48 – 52)
The Lord chastised David for despising his word
Then Nathan said to David: You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king of Israel. I rescued you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your Lord’s house and your Lord’s wives for your own. I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were not enough, I could count up for you still more. Why have you spurned the Lord and done evil in his sight? You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you took his wife as your own, and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’ Thus says the: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’ Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan answered David: ‘The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.’ (2 Sam 12:7 – 14)
Submit yourselves and receive correction, laying aside the arrogant self-confidence of your tongue
Let us receive correction, beloved, on account of which no one should feel displeased. Those exhortations by which we admonish one another are both good [in themselves], and highly profitable, for they tend to unite us to the will of God. For thus says the holy Word: ‘The Lord has severely chastened me, yet has not given me over to death.’ ‘For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ […] You therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue. For it is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honourable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, you should be cast out from the hope of His people. (Clement I of Rome. Letter to the Corinthians, Ch. 56, 57)
One who does not persevere in discipline is not a son of God
In regard to the first he gives this reason: All the saints who have pleased God passed through many tribulations, by which they were made sons of God. Therefore, one who does not persevere in discipline is not a son but a bastard, i.e., born of adultery. From this reason he draws this conclusion: If you are left without discipline [chastisement], in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. ‘All who would live godly lives in Christ will suffer persecution’ (2Tim 3:12); ‘All that have pleased God passed through many tribulations, remaining faithful’ (Judith 8:23). Nor is it necessary that the saints always have outward tribulations, when they are afflicted inwardly by the wicked lives of perverse men: ‘Lot dwelling among them that vexed the just soul from day to day with unjust works’ (2Pet 2:8). (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews, no. 678, Heb 12:5 – 11)
As a creative and insightful teacher, God admonishes with reward and punishment
‘God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline’ (Heb 12:7)? The salvation of the person, which is the ultimate purpose of Revelation, is shown as a fruit of an original and efficacious ‘pedagogy of God’ throughout history. Similar to human usage and according to the cultural categories of time, God in Scripture is seen as a merciful Father, teacher and sage. He assumes the character of the person, the individual and the community according to the conditions in which they are found. He liberates the person from the bonds of evil and attracts him to himself by bonds of love. He causes the person to grow progressively and patiently towards the maturity of a free son, faithful and obedient to his word. To this end, as a creative and insightful teacher, God transforms events in the life of his people into lessons of wisdom, adapting himself to the diverse ages and life situations. Thus he entrusts words of instruction and catechesis which are transmitted from generation to generation. He admonishes with reward and punishment, trials and sufferings, which become a formative influence. (Congregation for the Clergy. General Directory for Catechesis, no. 139, August 25, 1997)
More souls go to hell by mercy than by God’s justice
God is merciful. Behold the third delusion of sinners by which an immense number are lost! A learned author says, that the mercy of God sends more souls to hell than his justice; for sinners are induced, by a rash confidence in the divine mercy, to continue in sin. and thus are lost. God is merciful. Who denies it? But great as is his mercy, how many does he send to hell every day? God is merciful: but he is also just; and therefore he is obliged to punish those who offend him. He shows mercy; but to whom? To them who fear him. He hath strengthened His mercy toward them that fear Him. As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear Him (Ps 102:11.13). (Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Preparation for death, part III, consideration 23, no. 2)
VI – Doctrinal explanation regarding mortal sin, the only condition for eternal condemnation
What is sin?
Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law’ (Saint Augustine. Contra Faustum 22: PL 42, 418; Saint Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 71, 6). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1849)
Mortal sin destroys charity by a grave violation of God’s law and turns man away from God
Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1855)
For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.’ (Reconciliatio et penitentia, no. 17) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1857)
Sins have different degrees of gravity
Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.’ The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1858)
In order to commit mortal sin, one must have knowledge of the sinful character of the act and deliberately consent to it
Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart (Mk 3:5 – 6; Lk 16:19 – 31) do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1859)
The gravest sin is what is committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil
Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. the promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1860)
Mortal sin results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace
Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1861)
The souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell to suffer eternal fire
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, ‘eternal fire.’ 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. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1035)
What does hell consist of?
Hell consists in the eternal damnation of those who die in mortal sin through their own free choice. The principal suffering of hell is eternal separation from God in whom alone we can have the life and happiness for which we were created and for which we long. (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 212)