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A while back I prepared a homily I titled-” WTH- What the Hell.” The main point I was wondering about was the preoccupation some folks have with what they see as our predestination towards spending eternity in suffering.

Below is a segment from an article written by Fr. Robert Barron called: Is Hell Crowded or Empty? A Catholic Perspective. Click here to read the entire article as Fr. Barron helps us to understand more clearly the answer to the question- WTH.

The Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar was a friend of Barth’s and a fellow Swiss, and he presented a somewhat Barthian teaching on this score, though he pulled back from complete universalism. Balthasar argued that, given what God has accomplished in Christ, we may reasonably hope that all people will be saved. The condemnation of apokatastasis compelled him to draw back from saying that we know all will be saved, but his keen sensitivity to the dramatic power of the cross convinced him that we may entertain the lively and realistic hope that all people will eventually be drawn into the divine love.

My own conviction is that Balthasar has this more or less right. Catholic doctrine is that Hell exists, but yet the Church has never claimed to know if any human being is actually in Hell. When the Church says that Hell exists, it means that the definitive rejection of God’s love is a real possibility. “Hell” or “Gehenna” are spatial metaphors for the lonely and sad condition of having definitively refused the offer of the divine life. But is there anyone in this state of being? We don’t know for sure. We are in fact permitted to hope and to pray that all people will finally surrender to the alluring beauty of God’s grace.

Think of God’s life as a party to which everyone is invited, and think of Hell as the sullen corner into which someone who resolutely refuses to join the fun has sadly slunk. What this image helps us to understand is that language which suggests that God “sends” people to Hell is misleading. As C.S. Lewis put it so memorably: the door that closes one into Hell (if there is anyone there) is locked from the inside not from the outside. The existence of Hell as a real possibility is a corollary of two more fundamental convictions, namely, that God is love and that human beings are free. The divine love, freely rejected, results in suffering. And yet, we may, indeed we should, hope that God’s grace will, in the end, wear down the even the most recalcitrant sinner.

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