Grace: To have an interior sense of the pain that the lost suffer. If through repeated faults I find myself forgetful of the love of the Eternal King, may at least the fear of the pains of Hell keep me from falling into more sin.
Prayer: Compose in your mind the closest thing to Hell that you can imagine. Even if we are limited to metaphors that can only approximate the tortures of the loss of eternity with God, our imaginations can still stir up in us abhorrence for that sad fate. It may be helpful to read 1-10 of the 32nd chapter of St. Theresa’s Autobiography.
Reflection: We must always be aware that the love of God should be the motive for our actions. However, as we move through this life we may find ourselves assailed by temptations that confuse and weaken us, leaving us unable to enjoy the solace we once had during times when we were more aware of God’s love for us. It will be during these trying times that a simple fear of Hell (and disgust for that which leads to Hell) may augment our efforts and serve to keep us from the downward spiral of sin.
So, for a time, let our minds wonder at the terribleness of Hell. Imagine what it must be like to be “cast out into the exterior darkness [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) If Heaven is the choice of God begun in this world and made irrevocable on passing into eternity, the sweetness of beholding God and having all barriers eliminated between us, then Hell must be that much more dreadful! Hell must be the persistent contempt for that which is Good and disdain for the tender mercy God offers us.
And we ask ourselves, “Have I deserved Hell?” Supposing eternity will be spent with that which we have clung to most in our lives, can I with confidence say that my devotion has truly been to my Heavenly King such that I deserve Him alone? Most of us must admit that we can offer nothing but gratitude to God Our Lord for His forgiveness of our past!
“Do I now deserve Hell?” Am I unrepentant for some sin or do I harbor some attachment to anything other than a real love for God? Although fighting against temptations today may be difficult, it is nothing compared to the torment of Hell that I can only feebly imagine. I must let my aversion to a future Hell strengthen me in my resolve to repent for my sins today.
“Will I eventually deserve Hell?” My life is not just a random collection of wins and losses; it is a road I have been traveling. Might I be headed down a road that so distorts my affections that I may find myself an unrepentant sinner in the future, ungrateful for the grace and mercy offered me by God and unable to recognize His salvation as something desirable? Do I need to change course?
Pray: O God, my King! How infinitely merciful You have been to me! Truly You have stood between myself and eternity spent in Hell, offering me the grace of conversion out of a boundless love for me. Teach me to hate that which tempts me away from You. Teach me to recoil at the thought of sin. Keep me on Your path and help me to grow in love for You!