Friday, March 14, 2014

Fear of Hell, Love of God

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

[Abba Evagrius] also said, “Always keep your death in mind and do not forget the eternal judgment, then there will be no fault in your soul.”

Yes, keeping eternal judgment in mind sounds like a good thing to do.  It’s easier when one thinks one is sure to go to straight to Heaven, though, I’ve found! When I think about death and about standing before God with the devil accusing me of all my sins, I can relate more to this word from another abba:

Abba Elias said, “For my part, I fear three things: the moment when my soul will leave my body, and when I shall appear before God, and when the sentence will be given against me.”

Of course, the two statements are getting at the same thing, aren’t they? If we consider that we are going to die – if we remember that and think about being judged by God – then we will surely fear the very moments mentioned by Abba Elias. And that fear leads us to be less inclined to commit sins.

That’s only the start though, as we are often reminded. Better to avoid sin out of the fear of losing Heaven than not to avoid sin at all. But better still to avoid sin out of the love of God. In the act of contrition, we pray “I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love.” It’s natural to fear the pains of hell; it’s supernatural to love God.

As St. Antony the Great is quoted, “I no longer fear God; I love him.” Keeping death always in mind can, I hope, lead us (me) to that love of God that supersedes fear, and makes our avoidance of sin more virtuous and less self-serving.  

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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