Friends, today’s Gospel raises a crucial question about heaven and hell: Who will be in and who will be out? Origen argued that all people will be saved. For how could God’s love allow even one person to be damned? And St. Augustine argued that the vast majority of human beings were going to be damned.
Here’s how I approach this issue. The doctrine concerning hell is a corollary of two more fundamental truths: that God is love and that we are free. Love is all that God is. He’s not loving to some and not to others. No act of ours can possibly make him stop loving us.
However, we are free. Hence, we can say yes or we can say no to his love. If we turn toward it, we open like a sunflower; if we turn away from it, we get burned.
The very resistance to love causes pain. Think of a spelunker trapped in a cave for many weeks. When he emerges into the light of the sun, he experiences it as a torture. The same sun that delights someone who is accustomed to it tortures someone who has been turned from it.