“Hell is a door which is locked from the inside”- C.S. Lewis.
Our path through this earthly Christian life, though varied among us all, is all leading toward that one great end: Heaven. Each of us, together, yearn for the eternal presence of God, the Father, in Heaven. However, we may not often give enough thought to the eternal absence of God. Hell.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, there are four levels of Hell: Limbo of the Infants, Limbo of the Fathers, Purgatory, and Gehenna. Limbo of the Fathers, or ‘Abraham’s Bosom, was the location held by the holy men and women of the Old Testament, before ‘Christ’s Resurrection. Additionally, this is where Abraham held Lazarus, and the rich man called for a drop of water on his tongue (Luke 16;19-31). Purgatory is a place of the purging of ‘one’s sins before entering into the full grace of God. Purgatory is not a place of relaxation. In Purgatory, our sins are burned away, and our gaze is locked on to God so that we are as white as Christ before entering into heaven. Gehenna is what our Lord referred to as Hell in the real sense of the word (this is where you lock the door from the inside). The fires and cleansing of Purgatory pale in comparison to the absence of God and his love that is present in Gehenna.
Hell is real. There is no denying the existence of Hell. We understand that Hell (Gehenna) is the eternal separation from God. Not only will you be separated, but you will also be fully aware of your intentional defiance of His will. You will be in an agony of regret, forced to look upon Satan and his demons, and be scorched by spiritual fire. This spiritual fire casts no light and does not consume. The damned are tormented by the disconnection from God for all eternity.
‘C.S.’ ‘Lewis’s describes Hell has having a door that has is locked from the inside. This is due to the fact that we are not predestined or condemned to Hell by God. What can we do to lock the door from the inside? What can one do to end up in Hell? Firstly, Hell can be a reality if we turn away and reject God. Second, we could face Hell if we commit a mortal sin, or many of them, and do not repent. When we reject God or when we commit a sin that goes unrepented, we stand the chance of locking the door from the inside. In doing so, we lock the door from the inside and choose our own will over the will of God.
We must be vigilant in our seeking reparation of our sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation. In Matthew 24:36, our Lord describes the day of judgment as “that day and hour no one knows.” Jesus knew of our mortal weakness and fallible nature. He gave his disciples the power to loose sins on earth and likewise in heaven. God yearns for us all to be in heaven with Him. He gives us the tools to cleanse ourselves before our earthly death. Confessing our sins with honesty, via intentional regret and humility allows us to rid ourselves of the possibility of slipping into the pits of Hell.
Just as Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter; we hold the keys to unlock the door to heaven or lock ourselves into the gates of Hell. God sends no one to Hell. We choose to separate ourselves from God and turn away from his love. If we fail to reconcile ourselves to God, by living life opposed to God’s vision for us and therefore living opposed to God at time of our death, then we turn away from God and lock ourselves into Hell.
Let us humbly respect and participate in the gift of the sacrament of Reconciliation. By dropping our guard, confessing our sins to the priest in the confessional, in persona christi, we become reconciled to God. Through confession, we grow to have a true sense of sin, the damage it causes to ourselves, and our relationship with God. Let us receive the Eucharist as a pure vessel; as to remind ourselves that we are the true tabernacle that Christ intended. As Catholics, we have the gifts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as handed down from Christ to Peter. Let us cherish our lives as we love our Church, our tabernacle and body, and the purity of spirit after a complete and justly rendered absolution of our sins. Let us hold these close and be ready for that “day and hour.” For, we do not want to be locked from the inside.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.