As I mentioned in October, my husband and I have been reading the Catechism on the way to work. We are way behind the internet group that we started reading with, but we persist--slowly. Yesterday, we read this.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Hell, #1033
We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. (Emphasis mine.) To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."
What struck me was that right there between hatred and the results of dying in mortal sin, we have this warning against failing to meet the serious needs of the poor. This is a really sobering thought. I, and I think many or most people, tend to think of mortal sins as sexual sins, sins of violence, or pride. But here in the paragraph about Hell, we have a very quiet sin of neglect. Something that's easy to overlook. Those other sins aren't even mentioned.
As we move on to the next section, The Last Judgement, we find the same admonition.
Then Christ will come "in his glory, and all the angels with him. . . . Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."We know, of course, that the goats are those that saw the hungry, and the thirsty, and the outcasts, and the naked, and did nothing to help them.
The passage continues with this quote from St. Augustine, emphasizing for the third time the importance of caring for the least of our brethren.
All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When "our God comes, he does not keep silence.". . . he will turn towards those at his left hand: . . . "I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father - but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head. Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence."*
"...I placed them on earth for you...." I don't know about you, but when I see a person in need, that isn't my first thought, or at least it hasn't been until recently. And they are appointed to be our stewards? This triple emphasis on charity, and the results of our lack of charity is startling to me, and should be a wake up call for us all.
In the last paragraph of the section on The Last Judgement we read:
The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them "the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation." It inspires a holy fear of God and commits them to the justice of the Kingdom of God."Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation."
2 Corinthians 6:3
The entire passage from the Catechism can be found here.