in which I am again disturbed

Guardian angels aren’t only about neat dreams and messing with your iPod. Sometimes they tell you to read the Bible.

I admit I’m not good about that. Prayer is one thing: I consistently get half an hour a day of that. I have daily readings emailed to me, but often they pile up unread. A couple of weeks ago I prayed and asked how I could keep my focus better on God, and in response I began getting pressure to read the Bible.

(That’s why I laugh when I get people telling me this fascination with angels is diabolic in origin. If the devil is urging me to read the Bible, he’s incompetent. No?)

I decided to work on Luke. After the first couple of days, I got another course-correction: don’t just plow through it at two chapters a day. Read it nice and slow, take one story at a time, and dwell on it. 

(Thereby stumbling on what theologically smart people call “lectio divina.”)

Now for the disturbing part: I ran across the account of the rich man (Dives) and the poor man (Lazarus) who die and whose positions are reversed in the afterlife. You can read it yourself over at Luke 16:19-31, but here’s the place my hair stood on end:

He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

I’ve heard this story approximately fifty times in my life, and this was the first time I realized: that’s compassion.

Compassion. In Hell.

I’ve always figured that souls in Hell are just husks of the people they used to be, that there’s nothing human left about them. That by the time they’re irredeemable, they’re just wracked with hatred: hatred of themselves, of God, of each other. I pictured souls in Hell like atoms that are unable to bond with one another, supercharged and ricocheting off one another with a spark whenever there’s an encounter. Everyone a universe unto himself, totally self-focused. 

But this…? The idea that souls in Hell care that other souls not go there? And that they feel some sort of human protectiveness for their own family members? That means that way down, there’s still some basic elements of them that are human.

And that if they co-sinned with someone and that other person goes to Hell too, they see that person in pain and know they’re partially responsible. 

I thought it bad before. But this? This is worse.

About philangelus

Mom, freelance writer, novelist, angelphile, Catholic, know-it-all.
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12 Responses to in which I am again disturbed

  1. illya says:

    Just a comment on “Lexio Divina”. Some people who belong to religious communities as “third order” or lay members (those in the secular life who believe that the religious order provides a structure worthy of emulation, use “lexio divina” as an avenue of spiritual growth. Taking a small reading, as is mentioned above, you read it over very slowly, then stop. Usually a phrase will stick in your mind. Just as is the case above. You concentrate on that phrase for about five minutes, pause, say a little prayer, then read the passage again. If the phrase still sticks in your mind, keep meditating on it. Sometimes another phrase will stick out. You do this three times for a total of 15 minutes. The benefits that are reaped are enormous, As stated above, you can get new meaning out of a gospel story you have read and heard all your life. And the insights are “gifts” given by God as a reward for the time you are giving to this close study of His Word. Over time, this becomes a very enriching time of the day.

  2. ivyreisner says:

    If Hell were reserved only for those who have utterly lost all humanity it would be empty, because no one really has. Can you name a single figure out of all of human history who doesn’t care, at the very least, for his own family? It’s a balance. In the Jewish world-view, it’s also temporary. One is punished for doing wrong, and then admitted into Heaven. The length of the punishment is in proportion to the wrong done and I can name a few figures out of history that very well might face eternal damnation.

  3. ivyreisner says:

    Illya, if you haven’t yet, check out the writings of Rashi. He spends pages discussing a single word or a single letter in Torah. The very first letter in Genesis is Bet, the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. He has whole chapters on that alone.

  4. CricketB says:

    I like that Lexo Devina approach. It’s a nice combination of letting God, or intuition, or whatever you trust in, guide your thoughts, without it becoming a way to procrastinate. I often see several messages in one source (including Terry Pratchett’s books), and then I’ll see one or two of them everywhere for a while.

    As for Hell? Oh, yes, the souls there still have compassion and love, and they cause suffering. I have two ways of viewing it.

    In one version, the compassion and love are sources of pain, but they have no way to make amends. That’s truly permanent Hell.

    In the other, they can do something to fix the situation, either for the original victims, or for someone else, and by those actions redeem themselves and earn the right to Heaven.

    Then there’s a blend — When a soul feels strongly enough, it looks for a way to get around the chains and do something to help. That action is what earns them a place in Heaven.

  5. philangelus says:

    Ivy, lectio divina isn’t just Bible study. It’s a way of praying the scriptures, not just delving into all the deep meaning of the whys and wherefores.

    Cricket, what you’re advocating is kind of like what CS Lewis advocated in The Great Divorce, that Hell and Purgatory are the same thing, only if you end up escaping it, you’re in Purgatory and if you don’t then it was Hell all along. But what I’ve learned in life is that we really can’t fix the things we’ve done wrong. Only to a point, but nowhere near what it would actually take.

    Ivy, there are some toxic people who only care about their family members inasmuch as those people are targets for their bile. Over at the Toxic Families forum, that was a haven for people whose parents hated them, or their spouses, or their extended families. It wasn’t just bad parenting: it was actual hatred. It’s hard to believe, but these people weren’t even benefitting from their manipulation and lies. They were just doing it, even with it harmed them to continue acting that way.

    And I guess I’d figured that once a human soul was fully separated from the love of God (the definition of Hell) that the soul would lose anything good about it. But if that story is an accurate reflection, then souls don’t. And that’s horrible to think about.

  6. Ivy says:

    Rashi is the same. His work is so infused with a love of Torah that reading his commentaries is a form of prayer. It’s beautiful. It’s like the love of G-d shines right through his words, even in translation.

  7. philangelus says:

    Is there a “Rashi for Dummies”? I’m not sure I could get through quite the depth you say he has. 😉

  8. Pingback: Lectio Divina for non-divina moms « Seven angels, four kids, one family

  9. CricketB says:

    Can a soul really be cut off from the Love of God. That doesn’t fit with my view of Him. Any barriers are of their own choosing, or a challenge set by Him.

    You’re right, you can’t really fix things. You and the victim are forever changed. But you can make the attempt. Sometimes, the attempt is to leave a message for them with God, to be delivered when the time is right. Sometimes it’s to help someone else, such as an indirect victim, or someone who might otherwise make the same mistake, or someone in a similar situation. It doesn’t erase the black mark, but adds a good mark to help balance it.

  10. Pingback: weblog tour: sacrifices « Seven angels, four kids, one family

  11. knit_tgz says:

    What if (and this is horrible to even think) they see the harm they did, they see the wretched situation they are in and wish other persons will not endure it, they have everything except the capability to accept forgiveness?

    Love implies receiving too, and maybe they simply locked their vulnerable, needy part so well that it’s now impossible to get in there, even to God. Some people, in this life, seem capable of compassion, and even of one of the parts of love, the part of wishing the good of other persons, but uncapable of vulnerability to the extent that they never ask for help, they shun hugs, they never allow themselves to be poor before others and before God. I suppose everyone here has experiences some day you closed yourself so hard you are unable to receive love, and even then you feel compassion. I don’t want to imagine what it is like to be like that all the time. I don’t know how God can endure that there are some of His little ones like that.

    There’s one person to whom I’ve said “Please be faithful to God in all your life, because if I hopefully spend eternity with God I want to see you again there” (I know it sounds cheesy, but I said it. In tears, while parting. Very cheesy, I guess). There are several other persons in that list, persons I cannot imagine being happy if they’re not in Heaven, even while being with God. I know He is enough, but I cannot see that He will erase my love for those persons, so if one of them is missing, I think I will be torn, loving Him but being still broken, still incomplete. Remiel comes to mind.

  12. philangelus says:

    You make good points.

    It’s funny you mention the capability to accept forgiveness, because I actually have a weblog post on exactly that topic scheduled for…er, Thursday the 28th? I think.

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