I’ve heard more than one person comment, “ I already know I’m going to hell…” Each time, I am surprised that the person finds this acceptable. Circumstances have prevented me from inquiring why a person would believe that, but makes me stop and ponder.
If the only way one viewed God is as a judge, marking every wrong against any good, it would be very easy to condemn oneself. But when you look at the lives of the saints, St. Paul and St. Augustine come to mind, some start out with a negative balance, yet they were able to make it to heaven.
However, if one insisted on getting their own way, for instance living together outside of marriage, I could see how in this circumstance it would be hard to practice the faith, since one could not confess the sin, as there is no intention of avoiding it in the future. However, to believe oneself is condemned to hell is to not allow the possibility of God’s mercy.
In the story of the prodigal son, the errant man has enough confidence in his father’s generosity to his servants to go back and seek a place among them, just so that he could live. (Lk 15:17-19). God’s generosity to us has been shown in many ways, but none more than in Jesus being born, dying and rising from the grave.
St. Paul mentions that he was given a thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-9), so we should not be surprised to find ourselves struggling with one particular sin over and over again. But it’s through this “thorn” that we should seek God’s mercy on us and not give up and condemn ourselves.
This imperfect life on earth does provide much distraction that can distance us with God. Having the possibility of purgatory is comforting to know that my earthly imperfections can be cleansed from my soul before spending eternity with God. St. Thérèse of Lisieux goes even further, saying that for souls that practice the little way, they can even bypass purgatory and go directly to heaven! (Story of a Soul)
In this lenten season of repentance in the year of mercy, let us pray for those who have forgotten that God does not look at the sum of a person’s faults, but rather is generous beyond measure, if they only seek His mercy. Jesus, I trust in Your mercy!