St. John Paul II, in an address to seminarians in 1990, encouraged them to speak and preach about the ‘four last things’ at least once a year to encourage Catholics to contemplate their eternal destiny. The four last things are Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. As Lent begins we are reminded that one day we shall die and be judged by God. On Ash Wednesday you heard the following words as ashes were applied to our foreheads, “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” Death is a part of life, signified by the separation of the body and soul, but it is not the end of our existence. Upon death, the soul faces the judgement seat of God in which it receives its eternal reward in the Kingdom of Heaven or it is condemned to Hell out of Divine Justice. These are the eternal realities we contemplate from the Scriptures and the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Hell is the eternal loss of the Beatific face or vision of God. A soul that enters hell no longer loves anyone anymore and it is consumed by hate and regret. The soul suffers greatly for realizing that it rejected the graces God tried to give it during life on Earth. These souls never appealed to the Mercy of God and thus are subject to God’s Divine Justice for the sins that they committed or omitted.
Heaven on the other hand is reserved for those who persevered through their crosses, offered their sacrifices of prayer, fasting and alms giving, and confessed their sins, striving to live the virtuous life through God’s grace. These souls immersed themselves in God’s Mercy and put their total trust in His Divine Providence. The Saints and Angels in heaven love each other perfectly and burn with Divine Love for the Holy Trinity, contemplating the Beatific Face of God for all eternity. Heaven is the perfection of all things good, true and beautiful.