We’ve all witnessed or experienced it. The screaming and squirming child that does everything in his power to thwart the parent’s efforts to love him and sooth him in his sadness, anger or fear.
Sometimes as a parent, no matter how hard we try, our efforts to love seem to bounce off our children instead of sink into them like a healing balm. Our relationships with our children are not much different that the Father’s relationship with us.
Hell Comes From God’s Love
God’s love keeps everything that is created in existence. In Hell, the created body and soul is kept in existence right along with the Hell prepared for them who die in mortal sin.
And they came upon the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And there came down fire from God out of heaven and devoured them: and the devil, who seduced them, was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beast and the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:8-10)
This suggestion may seem shocking at first; but God’s love really is EVERYWHERE. St. Thomas observed in the Summa Theologica that:
God is said to be in all things by essence, not indeed by the essence of the things themselves, as if He were of their essence; but by His own essence; because His substance is present to all things as the cause of their being. (Summa Theologica I, Q. 8 A. 1, co.)
In other words, for created things to continue to be, God must be present as the cause of their being. However, what the modern mind with its lack of a sense of sin and its consequences forgets is that:
… Our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29)
If we refuse to let God’s love live IN us, a condition of spiritual life, it can only burn us. His love and His justice are not separate. Again, St. Thomas reminds us:
Justice and mercy appear in the punishment of the just in this world, since by afflictions lesser faults are cleansed in them, and they are the more raised up from earthly affections to God. As to this Gregory says (Moralia in Job 26:9): “The evils that press on us in this world force us to go to God.” (Summa Theologica I, Q. 21 A. 4 ad 3)
Jesus made it clear to us the inner attitude we must have:
Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. (Matthew 15:10)
To Kick or Accept?
When our Father tries to hold us in His infinitely loving arms, will we kick and scream and squirm in attempt to get away from His omnipresent love? Or will we, humbly and with docility, accept the love with which He wills to fill us through the teaching and sacraments of His holy Church? The decision belongs to each of us.
Let me conclude with words of warning and hope from St. John Chrysostom:
Weep for the unbelievers; weep for those who differ in nowise from them, those who depart hence without the illumination, without the seal! They indeed deserve our wailing, they deserve our groans; they are outside the Palace, with the culprits, with the condemned: for, “Verily I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven” (John 3:5). Mourn for those who have died in wealth and did not from their wealth think of any solace for their soul, who had power to wash away their sins and would not. … Let us weep for these; let us assist them according to our power; let us think of some assistance for them, small though it be, yet still let us assist them. How and in what way? By praying and entreating others to make prayers for them, by continually giving to the poor on their behalf. … Not in vain did the Apostles order that remembrance should be made of the dead in the dreadful Mysteries. They know that great gain results to them, great benefit; for when the whole people stands with uplifted hands, a priestly assembly, and that awful Sacrifice lies displayed, how shall we not prevail with God by our entreaties for them. And this we do for those who have departed in faith. (Homilies on Philippians 3)