Monday, April 23, 2007

A profound exchange

A quick question to start from “Anon”: Why did the deacon give the homily today for Fr. Mike? I thought that when the deacon was present for mass, he'd read the gospel, but the priest, as celebrant, should do the homily.

A large part of a deacon’s ministry is preaching the Word. So, here at St. Andrew’s, the deacons preach the 3rd Sunday of every month.
We had a very interesting exchange from a post back in February. The first anonymous blogger wrote, “I have read and been told that Hell is, in essence, permanent estrangement from God, or, living eternally in the total absence of God. Lots of people live in that state on earth, some by choice and some not. Hell for those people will be different only in that the state is permanent with no hope of ever having communion with God. Right?”

Then “Zophiel” responded:

"Anonymous,I think you've got it right. What I remember from the teaching is that Hell is essentially a choice, one chooses to be estranged from God, usually due to something like Pride, which is why it's considered a "deadly sin". I don't know that I would say any person living on Earth is completely in that condition, simply because the earth is saturated with God, like a sponge in the ocean. But I think there are people approaching that state, who continually shut out God's attempts to get through to them, because they won't let go Pride, Greed, Lust, etc. And, if they don't figure things out by the final moment, they'll like finally achieve the state of Hell in the end. Which is why we should always be praying even for our enemies, because such a fate is horrible beyond our ability to imagine, and if possible, made even worse because it is chosen.It's the more unpleasant part of Free Will. If we are to have the ability to choose God, then we must also have the ability to choose Not-God. The latter is Hell.”

Another Anon commented: “Being estranged from God may usually be by choice, but not always. Some people cannot choose God because they truly lack the capacity -- they do not have the mental, intellectual, developmental (trying to find the right word) wherewithal to make the internal decision. It can come from having suffered horrendous treatment from others (spirit gets crushed)or from being born with deficiencies. But whatever the cause -- self or not -- many people are quite used to the absence of God. Hell is not going to shock them.”

I find this to be a very profound and substantial exchange! I would agree with most of it. A couple of things to keep in mind: 1) Hell is an eternal, not a permanent, state. 2) In order for someone to go to Hell, he/she has to choose it. Remember, the three conditions of a mortal sin are a) grave matter, b) full knowledge, and c) full consent. Mortal sin is how we break our relationship with God; anyone who dies in a state of unrepented mortal sin goes to Hell. But, to be in that state involves a full and free choice.


At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Hell is an eternal, not a permanent, state.

I don't get the distinction- how is eternal NOT permanent?

At 2:02 PM, Anonymous KELLY said...

I have some close relatives and some close friends who are actively living in serious mortal sin. I have warned them that it is mortal sin. They seem to listen, feel guilty, but then go on to live in a state of mortal sin. BTW, they are all in unhappy life situations and have little peace/much stress. How much do I "preach," to them I do love them. Sometimes I feel compassionate for how they ended up in their situations, but then I wonder if I am sinning. Am I sinning by maintaining relationships with them and just listening at this point? Is this a passive form of approval? Guess I am having trouble with love the sinner and hate the sin. They obviously are doing what they want to do any way.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Oh, sorry, I didn't make the distinction. Something that is permanent lasts in this life only. For example, marriage is permanent (but not eternal)..."until death does us part" (marriage vows). This life has an end.

Something that is eternal lasts forever. For example, priesthood is eternal..."you are a priest forever" (Psalm 110). The next life has no end. Hell is the next life for some people who choose it, and it has no end.

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard "once a priest, always a priest" but never that priesthood is "eternal". I always thought it comparable to the committment of marriage. So do priests hold a distinction in heaven?

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I can't recall who's homily referenced this, but either Fr. Mike or Fr. Greg talked about the VT shooter's actions being the evil works of Satan, and something struck me. Obviously, all could agree that the events were horrific and tragic, and, yes, evil, but after listening to the shooter's own words, it is also obvious that he was desperately mentally ill. That Satan also works through the sick b/c they are too ill/weak to resists requires more of our consideration about the desperateness of mental illnesses. It is often part of the prayers of the faithful to pray for those suffering from mental illness, especially depression and isolation, which could so easily be ignored as "no big deal". But the hopelessness that those suffering must feel would surely lead them away from a relationship with Christ. I will ammend my prayers now for those suffering to be protected as well as healed.

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Kelly-
I am in a similar situation, as I have also expressed my concerns regarding certain kinds of behavior with family members- mostly b/c there are small children (including my own) involved. There were definately reprocussions to our relationships for having done it. I think my concern came across as judgement. I even offering my own missteps, and what I'd learned as a result of them to explain where I was coming from. However, in their opinions, that made me a hypocrite (as well as several other thing I won't recount). I've again thought I should take some action to make things better & try to once again better explain myself. I've written and rewritten this one letter, but I'm hesitant to send it. Maybe it's time for me to give it up to God and just pray for them. Family dynamics are tough, especially when both love and hurt are present.

At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aside for those for whom a mass is said, are the prayers for the faithful the same throughout the Archdiocese or does the priest just wing it when he gets up there?

At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mental illness is so tough. It can keep a person in the dark -- apart from other people, apart from life, apart from God. I'll never understand why some people have to be afflicted with it.

At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just received a call from the Red Cross asking (begging, really) me to donate blood. They are in a crisis, and the man said that this area's supply was depleted after the VT shooting victims were treated. I thought I would pass this on for anyone looking for a way to help in the wake of the VT tragedy. Call 1-800-GIVE LIFE and they'll give you an appointment at a location near you. (This is not an ad; I'm a regular blogger).

At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Kelly said...

"Maybe it's time for me to give it up to God and just pray for them. Family dynamics are tough, especially when both love and hurt are present."

Thanks, anon, for the above comment. A good reminder for me to let go and pray for them more often. They are all adults and fully aware of their choices. St. Francis reminded us to witness with our lives first and then our words. That one just came back to me (I guess God has to send a few reminders).

Family - Oh they are great for humility sometimes! My brothers like to remind me of every thing I said and did as a teen. LOL.

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"St. Francis reminded us to witness with our lives first and then our words." That is what I am trying to do. I was just wondering one thing. St. Francis was ordained as a deacon so does that mean he had to go to Mass at a church or was there a priest in his group who conducted Mass?

At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He almost didn't see the old lady, stranded on the side of the road, but
Even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up
In front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when
He approached her. Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one
Had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He
Didn't look safe; he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He
Knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you. He
Said, "I'm here to help you, ma'am. Why don't you wait in the car where it's
Warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson."

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough.
Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning
His knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire. But he had
To get dirty and his hands hurt. As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she
Rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was
From St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn't thank him
Enough for coming to her aid.

Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed
Him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all
The awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never
Thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping
Someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand
In the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to
Him to act any other way.

He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw
Someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they
Needed, and Bryan added, "And think of me." He waited until she started her
Car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good
As he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a
Bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip
Home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The
Whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a
Clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being
On her feet for the whole day couldn't erase. The lady noticed the waitress
Was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches
Change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little
Could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan.

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The
Waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old
Lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress
Came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed
Something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: "You don't
Owe me anything. I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way
I'm helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do
Not let this chain of love end with you."

Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve,
But the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home
From work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what
The lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her
Husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard....

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her,
She gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, "Everything' S going to
Be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson."


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