Tag Archives: Gallup

The Danger of Eternal Perdition

Hell is something that is not discussed about much anymore. Perhaps it is good that some of the old forms of presenting it are no longer with us, because Hell, in fact, is much different than it has been presented in the past. This is because, often, Hell has been presented without the necessary reference to Christ. This is because we forget that “Christ descended into Hell”. When we read this in the Creed, it is meant to express Sheol, the place of waiting. Sheol was a place of shadows, of “mere existence”. Christ’s descent there was one in solidarity with sinners by, in fact, taking on the totality of sin onto Himself and to experience the consequences of sin so that we who choose to follow Christ would need not have to.

Thus, Hell as we understand it as Christians can only be interpreted through Christ. It is not that others cannot experience the consequences of their sin in its chaotic totality, but rather that Christ was the first one to do so and only after Christ could Hell take on its full meaning. What was once a place of waiting became a place of permanent election on the part of the souls that choose Hell because they do not choose Christ.

I start off with this ‘theological preamble’ because it has much to do with what I wish to discuss today. There are many great joys that I experience here. In fact, just today, a group of guys who I have gotten to know very well missed the time of prayer. I saw them as they were standing in line and they asked me to pray with them. About 6 guys huddled around me for prayer. It was one of the coolest and neatest experiences I have ever had.

But today I also continued to experience something that I found to be painful. There is a man who has been coming here regularly but has been showing up with increasing drunkenness. To add to that, he seems to be daily growing in hate and anger. I see good in him, it is there, which is what moves me to want to love him and seek him with the same love that I seek others with.

Yet, he is also going down a dangerous path. I do not claim to know his heart, but we must also remember that words and actions can reveal the innermost depths of our hearts to the world. He has grown to cursing God, to hating Him. He does not deny that God does not exist. He has simply chosen to hate God more. And by doing so, I have seen this man hate himself more. It is sad to see someone who is so much a child of God, who has so much potential for great things in the eyes of God, to destroy himself completely. He has told me on numerous occasions that he is simply trying to kill himself through drinking.

What does one do in such situations. I have learned that there are some devils which can be cast out with prayer and fasting. I ask those who are reading this to do the same for this man. But we cannot keep it to this one man. We encounter such suffering every day. Redemption is possible for all, but it means that we must begin to sacrifice for their sake.

What has this all to do with Hell? It is simple: for the first time in my life, I have encountered it. I have seen it with my own eyes in the words and attitude of this man. Do not misinterpret this as a judgment. It isn’t. But at the same time, where he is in this moment scares me, because if he continues on this path, it can only be a bad way. That is why I am praying intensely that He find a different path, the path to God. But it is also a sobering experience for myself. What is happening in this man is simply more transparent. But we all do the same things each time we sin: we reject God, we hold ourselves back from Him. But instead we hide these small infractions and pretend they are nothing. They are not nothing. They are everything, because they can lead us down bad paths.

It is difficult to see someone seemingly choosing to accept Hell in his life right now. His attitude manifests it. But it is not hopeless, either. That is the point of Christ’s descent: He has been in that complete abandonment, isolation, in that place and state where love is impossible. He went there so that those who are experiencing in the depths of their being the utter desolation that sin brings need not despair. There is always hope to change directions towards a new horizon. And for some people, they need to go to the brinks of Hell so as to encounter Christ even there and, by virtue of that encounter, to turn themselves around and to rise with Christ in His Resurrection. The beautiful thing for all of us is that we all participate in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection by virtue of our baptism. There is always hope for change, there is always hope for redemption.

Yes, today I have seen Hell. I feel helpless to an extent as to what to do for Him. All I can do is pray, fast, love. That is all any of us can do at times. But we can also hope. The Cross is there. The Cross is only a condemnation if we choose it to be so. But it can also be the tool by which all are redeemed. The Cross is there, and it is in the Cross that I have hope. Thus I have confidence that Christ can and will work for this man. All I can do now is hope that his heart will be open to hearing the call of Christ as not a condemnation, but of a loving and merciful acceptance.

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Some Thoughts Prior to My Mission in New Mexico

Needless to say, the last 6 months have been different than most.  They have been filled with doubts, consolations, struggles, even isolation.  The direction my life is taking me is not one that I had expected, nor one that I even wanted.  But Christ’s hand is so clearly there, that I cannot but say yes to where I am going.  The more I pray and reflect on what I am to embark on, the more I think “wow, what a gift”.

The gift, however, is scary.

It is scary because there is nothing more profound than the encounter with Christ in the poor.  When you encounter that real presence of Christ in the face of the downtrodden, the isolated, the forgotten, you really encounter Him.  When you encounter Him, it scares you because you realize everything has to change in your life to conform to Him Whom you are serving.  I know this because I have encountered this numerous times in my life.

Often we run away from the poor because Christ in them challenges us to a far more radical life devoted to Him.

The more I reflect on this, the more I realize that my fears, struggles, torments are not due to the “sudden shift” that has taken place.  So I’m not going to be in the seminary next year, so I’m going to a new place.  Yes, fear comes with this, but it goes away quite quickly.

No, these elements in my life are of a spiritual nature: they are of the devil because they are trying to turn me away from the face of Christ.  Perhaps a part of me is too attached to certain things in life, and to encounter Christ in the poor forces me to re-assess these attachments.  Perhaps I have been fighting my trip not because it is uncomfortable and different – it is that, though.  No, I think in this situation I have at times fought with it because it means I am going to have to change my life.  It is going to have to change completely.  And it is not the demand of a vengeful God that is going to do this to me.  It is going to be the encounter with that gaze of Love that transformed the world on the Cross 2000 years ago.  True Love, that love that expends itself totally for you, that is what changes the heart that is open to receiving it.  I know in my life that I am not only open to receiving it, but I desperately want it.

But that desire that is at the core of my heart is a desire that scares me because it means I will no longer be the same.  I will no longer enjoy the same things I do now, nor even be able to participate in the friendships and so forth that I do now.  This is because it means that Christ becomes my total focus.  It means choosing Him above all else.

This is the challenge of life: to choose Christ and Him alone, in all situations and circumstances.  It is lofty, and scary. We do not even realize how deep that call goes because we avoid the people and times that give us the opportunity to encounter Him.  We must take Matthew 25 as literally as possible.

When one encounters Him in the lonely, the destitute, the abandoned, the thirsty, the hungry, the diseased, it is truly an encounter with Him.  What scares me is also what gives me the greatest sense of hope.

And so I prepare myself for this journey in two weeks.  I have no doubts that I will come back a different man than I was before, but one more filled with joy and purpose and devotion than I am now.  That is what encountering Christ does to us.  It is a profound gift He offers us, if we only had the ears and heart to hear Him.  I am afraid of the future because I know not what it holds, but as one friend recently said to me in an e-mail, quoting the Gospels: “Behold, I will go before you to Galilee and will meet you there”.  He really is there to guide, guard, and protect.  I know this in my heart of hearts.  And I know that what is stony in my heart now will be turned into flesh with an encounter with the Risen Lord in the faces of the poor and abandoned.

Yes, it will challenge me to a greater poverty, a greater simplicity of life, a greater life of prayer, a greater life of obedience, a growing in having a chaste heart focused solely on the Lord.  It will, in the ancient sense of the term, encourage me to become more evangelical and to embrace the counsels of apostolic life.

And so I go with a whole whack of different emotions in my heart.  It is my hope that when the odd opportunity allows, I will be using my blog to share brief updates whenever I can get to a computer, which I do not expect to happen very often.  But when I do, I will update the blog to let people know what is happening, and how the encounter with Jesus Christ is helping me in my vocational call as a diocesan priest.  I ask for your prayers and also, if you wish for me to pray for you, please simply contact me.  I would encourage you to subscribe via e-mail if you wish for updates as I do not know when or how often I will be updating.  This way, you will get a direct e-mail in your inbox with my updates.

For those who read the blog and are unaware, I will be working for 6 months with the Missionaries of Charity in Gallup, New Mexico in their mission of serving the poorest of the poor.  This is part of my formation on the path, hopefully, towards priesthood.

Sincerely in Christ

-Harrison

 

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