Whether we want to believe it or not, the Church teaches that Hell exists. Don’t believe me?
The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1035)
If we choose to ignore the warnings of Christ in Scripture and in 2,000 years of constant Church teaching, we can end up in Hell. In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns each of us that, unless we repent, we can “perish” and take up permanent (and I really mean permanent!) residence in the land of eternal suffering. He mentions this twice in today’s Gospel (Lk 13:3, 5), so it’s very hard to ignore. While some of you may look at this warning and feel safe because you’re not in the state of mortal sin, Jesus proceeds to tell a parable that raises the bar a bit.
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’” (Lk 13:4-9)
Are you “bearing fruit” in your life? While you may be a great person, are there some duties that you are neglecting? Do you always put God first or does He come after television, the Internet, and relaxation? Are you charitable with your time and money, or only after first satisfying all of your needs? Can others look at your life and be attracted to a deeper faith? Do your actions always provide a good example for your family and co-workers? Our Lord is the man searching for fruit on the “fig tree” of your life. That “three year” period is your life span. In could be over today, tomorrow, twenty or fifty years from now. What you want to avoid is being found to be “fruitless” on the day of judgment. Please use the remainder of this Lenten season to honestly look at your life, discover those areas that need improvement and make the necessary changes. If you need motivation, remember the words of Our Lord:
“If you do not repent, you will all perish!”