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Friends, our Gospel for today features a question that people have been asking from time immemorial and that they still ask today: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Heaven, hell, salvation, damnation, who will be in and who will be out? We have remained fascinated with these questions for a long time.

Here’s how I would recommend we approach this issue. The doctrine concerning hell is a corollary of two more fundamental truths—namely, that God is love and that we are free. Love (willing the good of the other) is all that God is. He doesn’t go in and out of love; he doesn’t change his mind; he’s not loving to some and not to others. He is indeed like the sun that shines on the good and bad alike, in the words of Jesus.

No act of ours can possibly make him stop loving us. In this regard, he is like the best of parents. However, we are free. We are not God’s marionettes, and 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 from it, we get burned.