Hello, GW students! I’m Fr. Greg, the chaplain of the Newman Center . This site is a forum for GW students to ask ANY (appropriate) questions about the Catholic faith, related or unrelated to my posts. All comments have to meet my approval before they are posted. I'm sorry for the approval process and I thank you for your patience and understanding. Thanks, and may you know the peace of Christ!
Tonight, I’d like to do a little Q & A with
you.Don’t worry, I won’t be asking you
the questions.This isn’t Confirmation,
and I’m not the bishop! These are questions I’ve been asked repeatedly here at
GW the past five years.And, they relate
to tonight’s readings.This will be
intense because the readings are intense.First question, how can we reconcile God’s omniscience with our free
will?If God knows all things and knows
what we will choose in the future, then our choices are not really free.If we’re really free, then God doesn’t know
what we will choose in the future.How
do we reconcile all of this?I found a
good answer online from a Dominican, Father Serpa.He says: “There is nothing to reconcile.
Because you know that the sun will be in the sky tomorrow doesn’t mean that you
will have caused it to be there! Even though God already knows what our free
choices will be in the future, our choices are still ours and are still free.
If our free choices change how the future will be, God already knows that and
has known it for all eternity.”I think
of parents who know culturally what’s going on…maybe not all-knowing, but
knowing.They raise their kids to make
the right choices.By the time their
kids leave home, they pretty much know what bad they choose, good or bad.Just because they might know, their kids
still make free choices.Just because
God knows what we choose doesn’t take away from our freedom.
Second question…well, more of a comment.Jesus talks about divorce in tonight’s Gospel
(Mt 5:17-37).I know many of you are
children of divorced parents.You have
experienced many wounds and hurt.I want
to make myself available for you to talk about it.You probably still have a lot of questions.There are many misconceptions about divorce,
divorced Catholics, and annulments.You
probably heard the words of our Lord tonight with a particular attention; maybe
it prompted more questions.My door is open
to help tackle your questions or just to talk.
Third question: how can an all-loving, all-merciful
God send anyone to Hell?He doesn’t.Hell is a choice.Heaven is a choice.We hear much about choice in tonight’s first
reading (Sir 15:15-20). “Before man (male and female) are life and death, good
and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him”.Pope John Paul II said that “hell is not a
punishment imposed by God.It is the
natural consequence of an unrepentant sinner’s choice against God”.You all know people who are choosing against
God.You are hoping and praying that
their choice will not hold up until their death.The key word is unrepentant which means that
they have no desire to change.If that holds
up until death, well, that’s what we’re talking about.I know people who have told me they are
choosing hell over heaven.Hell is a
lack of heaven just like evil is a lack of good or cold is a lack of heat (as
we’ve experienced much in the past few weeks here).It means being away from God, what’s good,
and others.I think Hell is
loneliness.Some people choose to be
alone rather than with others.
Anytime we choose mortal sin, we choose Hell.Jesus gives a few examples of that in tonight’s
Gospel - sins caused by the eye or hand can lead to Gehenna (Hell).But, in general, hell is a result of free
will, and ultimately, God’s love.God
has created us to choose Heaven…to choose life…to choose love.But, He won’t force us.Love can’t be forced; it has to be
chosen.If God intervened to keep people
out of Hell, then it wouldn’t be love and we wouldn’t be free.We really are free…to choose Heaven or
Hell.If all this talk about Hell is
scaring you, well, that’s what Confession is for.Confession keeps us out of Hell.
Fourth question, and more positive: what is Heaven
like?I love this quote from Isaiah to which
St. Paul refers in the second reading: “eye
has not seen, ear has not heard…what God has prepared for those who love him”.In other words, we cannot fathom how
awesome Heaven will be!I like to think
of Heaven as the greatest party or event we’ve been to.Maybe all your friends or family are
there.It’s not too crazy, just a really
good time.And, it lasts forever.That’s Heaven.There are no regrets…no hangover…no last call…no
closing time.(Can you tell that I worked
in a bar in college?!).Heaven is an
Finally, when you come here, you choose Heaven.It’s amazing how committed you are to Heaven
by coming to Mass every Sunday…in college.It’s so inspiring / heroic...keep it
up!And, when you specifically come to
the Eucharist, you choose Heaven.Christ
Himself says that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”.I’d like to close with a quote from St.
Therese of Lisieux (it’s more of a poem):
Bread, Heavenly Bread, Eucharist Divine
O Sacred Mystery! founded on Love's play...
Jesus, my white Host, come in this heart of mine
If only for today.
our sweet office
Is to prepare for the altar
The bread and wine of the Sacrifice
Which brings ‘Heaven’ to earth!”