Years ago, preachers and people in general talked about hell frequently. Today, although the word "hell" is repeatedly mentioned by those using profanity, hell is denied by many people, even Christians, or it is greatly de-emphasized. How much "hell" should we give people, that is, how often should we seriously mention hell at church and other places? This question is difficult to answer.
A possible rule of thumb is to mention hell as often as Jesus does in the Gospels. Jesus wasn't always talking about hell. His favorite subjects were His Father, the kingdom of heaven, and the cross. Nevertheless, Jesus did not ignore or de-emphasize hell. He did not use the term "hell" but spoke of "Gehenna with its unquenchable fire" (Mk 9:43) where "the worm dies not" (Mk 9:48). Jesus also referred to "Hades," translated "the abode of the dead" (Lk 16:23, NAB) or "the netherworld" (Lk 16:23, RNAB). In this place, people are tortured in flames (Lk 16:24). When Jesus taught about Judgment Day, He mentioned "eternal punishment" (Mt 25:46) for evildoers who have been hurled "into the fiery furnace where they will wail and grind their teeth" (Mt 13:42).
Let's fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2) and not on hell or anything else. Nevertheless, let us be as conscious of hell as Jesus wants us to be, as indicated by His words in the Gospels.
|Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Imprimatur ("Permission to Publish") for One Bread, One Body covering the period from April 1, 2016 through May 31, 2016.
†Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, November 6, 2015.