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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

Has anyone ever told you you come across like a rigid fundamentalist hell fire and brimstone preacher? Jesus shows compassion for human frailties even to those who don’t deserve it.

Outline of the Answer
• The First Christian “Fire and Brimstone” Preacher
• The Dire Consequences of Sin
• Coming in Compassion
• The Second Coming

 
Apparently, you have the idea that someone who preaches fire and brimstone doesn’t have any compassion for the weaknesses of others. But do you know who was the first Christian “fire and brimstone” preacher?

  

. . . on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all. So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

  

—Luke 17:29–30

That’s right. Jesus. He who “shows compassion for human frailties even to those who don’t deserve it” nevertheless warns us of the dire consequences of sin.

 
The Dire Consequences of Sin

To help you grasp this point, read the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53–8:11). Jesus did not condemn the woman. But He told her, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” In other words, He did not just pat her on the head and say, “There, there. It’s all right to shack up with someone as long as you believe you ‘love’ him.” No. He told her quite plainly to change her ways. Why? Because if she didn’t, she was in grave danger of the same fire and brimstone rained down on Sodom. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore,” He warned her.

Now that, however “rigid” it might sound to many persons in today’s world of secular humanism, is compassion.

 
Coming in Compassion

Christ came into this world because of His compassion for our slavery to sin. Though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, He emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6-7). And though He was in the form of God, He taught us gently and compassionately. He took all His enemies’ hatred and insults patiently, without retaliating—and without calling down “fire from heaven,” as James and John once asked Him to do (Luke 9:54). He did this all to redeem us from sin, to show us that true love is a matter of wanting to help even our enemies to be saved from their sins, all because of our love for God.

But that’s not the end of the story.

 
The Second Coming

Christ will come again, to judge the living and the dead. In this second coming, though, Christ will come in glory, not meekness, and He will be wearing a blood-stained cloak (Revelation 19:13) to remind us what our hatred and insults did to Him the first time. And at that time those who have refused to acknowledge and repent their sins—that is, those who have rejected His gentle mercy—will find out what fire and brimstone is all about.

  

The Saviour[’s first coming] was to fulfill His plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time [at His second coming], whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of His Kingdom by necessity.

  

—From a catechetical instruction
by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop
(Office of Readings, First Sunday of Advent)

 

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