|St. Robert Bellarmine preached on hell.|
First, as St. John Bosco always told his boys, "Love God!" Isn't that the same thing Jesus told anyone who asked Him about the most important commandments? "The first is this: Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole soul, and your whole strength!"
But what does that mean? What is love? So many people say they love this or that. Certainly many people love their gadgets. They put their entire heart, soul, mind, and strength into playing games and expanding their list of friends. They spend most waking hours glued to their Ipads, Iphones, and computers. That's where they invest the most time and energy. How many are chasing Pokemon right now? Is he a little god to be pursued and followed and "loved?" How many are addicted zombie-like to their little boxes? Are these gadgets the new gods seducing us?
Obviously this can't be love since love requires a reciprocal relationship. Our gadgets can seduce us but they can't love us. So what is love? Jesus tells us. "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments." What are his commandments? The ten given to Moses and the two great commandments. They aren't about feelings, but about actions. Put God first! Obey your parents and other lawful authorities. Don't kill, steal, commit sins of lust, or tear down the reputations of others. Serve your neighbors, but God first. So love is a verb -- filled with charity towards others, but also towards ourselves. St. Paul describes in Corinthians 1:13 the virtues that identify love: patience, kindness, forgiveness, goodness, commitment to truth, etc. Love may be a challenge to DO, but it isn't really hard to understand. And if we persevere in the commitment to love we are well on the way to meeting a heavenly goal.
But there's a second thing we must do to impress on our minds the urgency to truly love God. Every day we should reflect on the four last things: death, judgment, heaven or hell. Many saints preached on death and judgment frequently. St. Robert Bellarmine is famous for his treatise on hell and its torments. Sadly we hear little of that today as if somehow we are so holy we don't need to be reminded that we're in spiritual danger. Many view God as the candy man with a bucket of goodies for all who die. Oh, there's a hell, we hear; but nobody goes there. What nonsense! Hell is real and souls, mainly due to sins of the flesh, are falling into it "like snowflakes" as Jacinta of Fatima said. St. Francis Borgia, when he made his nightly examination of conscience, always imagined himself in hell and asked God what he did that day to deserve it. In the act of contrition we say, "I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because I love you, my God...."
What a wonderful thing if our primary motivation for everything we do is love of God and love of neighbor. But most of us fail in perfect love. Fear of punishment is not the best motive for refraining from serious sin, but it is better than sinning.
I'm asking my guardian angel to help me today to love God first, but I will also imagine myself in hell tonight and ask for the grace of repentance and conversion.
Our Lady help of Christians, pray for us.