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Gospel for Sunday, March 10: John 3:14-21

IV Sunday in Lent B

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not be lost but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned; but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And the judgment is this: light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their works were evil. 20 For whoever does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his works be reproved. 21 Instead, whoever does the truth comes to the light, so that it may appear clearly that his works were done in God.”

Jh 3:14-21

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

What does it mean, “He who does not believe has already been condemned” (Jn. 3:18)? Is it the promise of eternal suffering among devils and flames? If God is truly mercy, forgiveness, tenderness, love, is it possible that He would allow so much suffering even in the afterlife for His children? Which of us, earthly fathers, would ever send his son to roast in eternal fire, even if he was guilty of horrible crimes? Who among us would wish terrible and endless torments for his son, even if he were a sinner? Let us be careful not to think of ourselves as better fathers than God, who is Love itself, for this is not only blasphemy, but the foundation of atheism: if I am more good and merciful than God, then I can do without this God…

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Purgatory, further possibility for conversion

Many today see purgatory as a kind of “extra time,” extra time, that God grants after death to those who rejected Him in life, to give them a further chance for conversion: “Purgatory,” Cardinal Martini wrote, “is the space of “vigilance” mercifully and mysteriously extended to the time after death; it is a participation in Christ’s passion for the last “purification” that will allow one to enter with him into glory… Purgatory is one of the human representations that shows how it is possible to be preserved from hell… You can have another chance. It is the extension of an opportunity and, in that sense, it is an optimistic thought.”

“That God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

But what about hell? Certainly, the possibility of Hell is present in the Christian Faith. Hell is dogma of Faith, reaffirmed by the Council of Trent. But can anyone really say an eternal, final “no” to God, to a God so lovable, tender, sweet, handsome, handsome, charming?

There have always been opposing factions on this point. “Two theses in tension with each other have been confronted as early as the New Testament. On the one hand, there is the “infernal” conception that emerges in not a few sayings of the historical Jesus and that will enter the mainstream of Christian theology, especially through Augustine, Aquinas and Calvin. On the other hand, there is the doctrine of “apocatastasis,” that is, of final comprehensive reconciliation and redemption, found in St. Paul and the Johannine Fourth Gospel, and developed from there particularly in the “mystical” line of theology. The first thesis exalts the necessary theme of justice, which demands a double outcome in the judgment of human actions (of salvation for the righteous and condemnation for the sinner); the second emphasizes the primacy of divine merciful love, opening a window of ‘universal hope'” (G. Ravasi). The doctrine of “apocatastasis” (apokatàstasis), or “restoration” or “reintegration,” finds its biblical foundation in those texts that proclaim that, at the end of time, “all will have been submitted to the Son…, so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:27-28; Col. 1:19-20). Therefore, this theological current affirms that hell is a temporary reality, and in the end there will be reconciliation for all, including the demons: for God’s infinite love can find no bounds, and in the end it will triumph over everything and everyone. However, the doctrine of apocatastasis was condemned as heresy by the Church at the Councils of Constantinople of 543 and later.

A full Hell or an empty Hell?

According to the Church, therefore, there is a theoretical possibility that man says a definitive “no” to God and thus, by turning away forever from him, the source of joy and life, finds himself in that reality of unhappiness and death that we commonly call “hell.” But practically is it possible for man to say a definitive no to God? Two opposing currents have always been present in the Church. On one side are the “justicialists,” who claim that hell is filled with the many wicked and violent people who have infested and infest the earth. On the other side are the so-called “merciful ones” (C. M. Martini, Joseph Ratzinger himself, Karl Rahner…), who claim that yes hell exists, but that it is probably empty, because it is really difficult for man to reject God with full warning and deliberate consent. Often those who oppose God do so because they have had a distorted view of him or a bad testimony from believers, and therefore their personal responsibility is limited.

The debate between the “justicialists” and the “merciful” will continue for a long time to come. But in any case it is better to be benevolent, lenient and broad-minded in judgments, for Jesus warns, “With the measure with which you measure, it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 7:36-38). It behooves us then to be very lenient….

And always be mindful that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:15-16).

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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