Sin, Hell, Eternity, Love – part 1

Pope Benedict XVI continues to shine in his counter-cultural leadership by reaffirming that hell ‘exists and is eternal’.

“Christ came to tell us that he desires all of us in heaven and that hell, which isn’t spoken about much in our time, exists and is eternal for those who close their hearts to his love” (CNS)

Even the secular press seem keen to report on this distinctly non-politically-correct move – try googling “hell” and “Benedict” together and see what I mean.

Benedict XVI goes on to say that “the true enemy is attachment to sin”. Isn’t that an interesting thing to say? The “true enemy”? To me, that says a lot about what the society believes and understands about God, the Church and the world; it’s upside down.

Many people, I suspect, think that God is like a harsh judge or prison officer keen to throw them in at the first chance He gets, and then turn into a preacher or a torturer when you can’t get out!

Thank God that isn’t the case.

What, or who, then, is our true enemy? Benedict says “attachment to sin” is. What’s that exactly?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1849 defines ‘sin’ as follows:

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.”

So. It’s bad. What does that all mean though?

“Offense against reason, truth, and right conscience” – in other words, when we sin, we offend against everything that makes us truly human. We therefore damage ourselves, and offend against God who loves us more than we love ourselves.

A lot of the time, we do know it when we sin or when others do. We intuitively recognize it, and call those who sin all sorts of things, like “you sick pervert!”. Now now (seriously) let’s look at that. Sickness and perversion are exactly what sin is; it’s a right thing gone wrong. Obstinate sinners are like sick patients continuing to refuse treatment, or like a mentally ill patient who insist he is perfectly healthy. I know that I, for one, much prefer to be sane by admitting my insanity.

As detestable as sin is, it is something that we can be cured from – and indeed, must be cured from if we wish to be saved from spending eternity in a very hot and inhospitable place (if you know what I mean…) – and we’ll get to this by the end of this series.

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