Most of my theological reflection tend to consider moral and social issues but when I offer a retreat or teach a theology class one of the topics that tend to enliven the conversation is the concept of Hell and the idea of God’s eternal justice. Having found this piece by Fr. Barron I wanted to share it since he addresses this topic very thoroughly. Fr. Barron sides with von Balthasar and I agree with him. As my own professor of Christian eschatology Fr. Zachary Hayes once told me, “We believe in Heaven, we assume Hell.” Our own Catholic creed acknowledges the “communion of saints,” but notice that we make no statement regarding the communion of sinners. Check out this video from Fr. Barron.
Fr. Barron’s last point is crucial. God is not the one who places us in Hell, rather it is us who individually make that decision. We make that decision when we distance ourselves from the human community and from God’s creation. We make that decision when we are guided by our own self-interest rather than the common good. We make that decision when in our arrogance we refuse the Will the of God to serve and love one another and instead strive to compete and dominate over against each other.
The Story of Jonah describes this struggle well. Jonah finds it easier to accept a wrathful God of fire and brimstone. There is no doubt in the story that Jonah very much wants God to inflict destruction on a people that he despises, the Ninevites. Instead God bestows mercy and compassion to these people who heed His word; Jonah finds this intolerable. The story of Jonah is the story of one who struggles against God’s will and distances himself from a God who does not share Jonah’s own sense of wrathful justice. In the end Jonah cannot seem to reconcile himself with the God of mercy and compassion. He is instead angry with God, “angry enough to die.” (Jonah 4: 9b)
I would be curious to hear what people think about this subject.