Recently there was a heated debate (no pun intended) in Catholic circles over how numerous the population of hell actually was. Fr. Barron, of Catholicism series fame, had raised the eyebrows and hackles of some by a certain video. In case clicking seems too onerous at the moment, basically the popular priest stated that it was "a reasonable hope" to believe hell may not be the overcrowded damnation destination we've allowed ourselves to think. After reading the exhaustive and exhausting commentary and watching the clip, I came down heavily on his side; I thought the position was beautifully explained and supported. One of my favorite parts was when he quoted C.S. Lewis: "The door of hell is locked from the inside," implying that hell was very much a self-imposed exile, and the thought that Divine Love, refused, was what lit the eternal fire.
But not all my fellow Christians and Catholics agree, by any means. It seems some hold it is most virtuous to assume that hell is positively packed with the perditious, and any hint at a sparsely settled Hades gets some feathers totally bent out of shape. And with seemingly great ire, following the video are citations of the most foreboding passages of scripture regarded the road to damnation being wide and flocks of goats on God's left hand, to wondering how the Fatima vision of hell could not mean a sight of absolutely eternal damnation, and overall whining about how mortal sin and free will and the pursuit of grace could have any meaning if Our Lord was set on saving many more souls than we thought possible. I closed my laptop (when I heard the smashing demise of the third ornament of the day at the hands of my toddler) with thoughts of how the older brother of the prodigal son was also envious, and with annoyance at how people with an exaggerated sense of human justice were attempting to limit the mercy of God.
Then some idiot walked into a Connecticut school not terribly far from my home, and killed an entire class of Kindergarteners yesterday.
Suddenly I found myself last night--along with a sibling--fantasizing on how many ways we would kill the murderer if he only were not so annoying as to be already self-deceased. So much for my being above human justice.
I am so glad I'm not the judge of anyone's soul. I get too angry. I react too quickly. I cannot see the innermost working of people's minds, nor read their hearts, nor understand their motivations. Especially when it comes to the mass murder of children. I would have no mercy. Yet, He who is both infinitely and perfectly just and merciful seems to want to be portrayed like this:
The only thing so far that makes it possible for me to come at all near to understanding a mercy so vast as to potentially save the soul of Adam Lanza is to look at how I understand and forgive my own children. I gulp and try to perform the mental exercise I employ when I am furious at my adolescent daughters: I picture them as babies. Innocent. Vulnerable. So gosh darn cute. Learning how to love or to hate at the hands of those around them. And I come a fraction closer to understanding how the Creator so deeply wants the eternal good of His most beloved creation: us. And I can for a second stomach the vision of a greatly repentant lion in heaven with the innocent lambs he slaughtered. And momentarily, I can consider the reasonable hope that hell is not crowded.
For now, I mostly want to pray for those who are lost and the families who lost them: May all the souls of the victims of the Connecticut shootings rest in peace in the hands of their Creator, who loves them, who died for them, and who will deal with them with great Justice and great Mercy. And may God embrace the bereaved families with the comfort He alone knows how to give.
"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him." Psalm 103:13