The Most Important Question in Life

November 2004

We don’t recall that anyone has ever asked us why we pay so much attention to Hell. But we’ll tell you anyhow. Because one rarely, if ever, hears anything about it from the pulpit or even from our bishops (obviously there’s been a failure of nerve here, or at least we hope it’s only that). And because, as Peter Kreeft has repeatedly said, the most important question in life is what must I do to be saved?

Kreeft, a Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, has again and again been chagrined at how few young Catholics at Boston College know the answer to that question. Salvation is not a slam-dunk, though many Catholics, young and old, seem to think it is.

In this regard, we received a new book called The Gospel According to St. Matthew: The Catholic Apologetics Study Bible by Robert A. Sungenis (Queenship Pub. Co., 800-647-9882). The book contains 23 “Apologetic Commentaries,” and one in particular caught our attention. It pertains to Matthew 25:46, which states: “And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into everlasting life.” Sungenis poses this question: “Is it possible that hell will be empty of human beings?” His answer is a forthright “No.” Sungenis gives abundant reasons for his answer, mostly from the Bible, but also from Tradition and the Magisterium.

Probably the most authoritative words in this regard come from Jesus Himself: “Enter through the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way leading to destruction, and many are there who go in through it. How narrow is the gate, and confined is the way leading to life: and few are the ones finding it!” (Mt. 7:13-14). And: “A certain man said to him: ‘Lord, are there few who are saved?’ And he said to them: ‘Strive to enter by the narrow gate: for I say to you, many shall seek to enter and shall not be able’” (Lk. 13:23-24).

But this leads into the very delicate question of the Jews, for Jesus continues speaking in Luke 13 as follows: “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (vv. 25-29).

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New Oxford Notes: November 2004

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