Someone wondered the other day why hell had to last for all eternity. Wasn’t that extra cruel of God? Why couldn’t the damned simply be eliminated, crushed, annihilated?
Another person commented that he didn’t think heaven was such an attractive idea because he thought he would probably get bored. Hmmm.
One first has to deal with the question of why the damned could not simply be annihilated. I guess the easy answer is that God is not in favor of Capital Punishment. God doesn’t kill people.
The other part to the answer is that God’s justice is built in. It is not arbitrary. What I mean is that the punishment fits the crime. Those who are truly damned hate God and they don’t want to be in His presence. Not now. Not ever. Furthermore, those who are truly damned hate God so much that the longer they stay in Hell, the more resentful they become, the more they will blame others and the more they will be unable and unwilling to repent.
In other words, God didn’t send them to hell forever. They went there because that is what they chose and they stay there because that is what they continue to choose.
If you think this is harsh or unreasonable, stop and think for a moment. Don’t all of us know some people who hate all that is beautiful, good and true? Don’t we know some people who actually love what is dark and evil? Don’t all of us know those who spit on the sacred and blaspheme all that is holy? We wish they would repent, but they show no signs of it. If, in this life, they descend into ever darker cycles of hatred, violence, waste and shame, why do we imagine that they will change in the next life? Sin, like money in a bank, accumulates interest. It does not stay even. It grows like a horrible cancer in the soul.
Both questions–the one about hell being eternal and heaven being boring show a shallow kind of thinking about eternity.
When you were a child and you first encountered the concept of eternity you thought it was just like ordinary time, but it went on and on and on, and then it continued to go on and on and on. Of course that concept of eternity–as an endless day–is terrifying and boring.
We should think differently about eternity. Eternity is not just endless time. It is no timelessness. In other words, to be in eternity is to be outside time.
Eternity is one moment without beginning and without end. Eternity a perpetual state of being. It is the expanse of everything we ever were and every choice we ever made into one full and complete and state of existence that has no borders and no boundaries.
What is the best way to think of eternity? Think of this present moment. Here right now. This second. This millisecond.
This present moment is real. The past is a memory. The future is a dream.
This present moment is the sum of all that has gone before and it is the seed of all that is to come.
Here in this present moment a portal opens on eternity. Here you breathe. Here you live. Here you pray. Here you exist.
So live in the sacrament of this present moment. Open you heart and mind, and thank God, for this present moment is your little glimpse of glory, your little taste of heaven.
This is the hint of eternal life.
And it is not boring.
Image Creative Commons via Bing