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

John 3, 14-21

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

John 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 allows so much suffering even in the afterlife to his children? Who among us, earthly fathers, would ever send his son to roast in the eternal fire, even if he had been guilty of horrible crimes? Who among us would wish for terrible and endless torments for our child, even if he is a sinner? Let us be careful not to think of ourselves as better fathers than God, who is Love itself, because this is not only blasphemy, but is the foundation of atheism: if I am more good and merciful than God, then I can do without this God…

Purgatory, further possibility of conversion

Many today see purgatory as a sort of “additional time”, “extra time”, which God grants after death to those who rejected him in life, to give them a further possibility of conversion: “The “purgatory” – wrote Cardinal Martini – it is the space of “vigilance” mercifully and mysteriously extended to the time after death; it is participating in the passion of Christ for the final “purification” that will allow you to enter glory with him… Purgatory is one of the human representations that shows how it is possible to be preserved from hell… You can have another opportunity. This is the extension of an opportunity and, in this sense, it is an optimistic thought.”

“So that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15,28)

But what about hell? Of course, the possibility of hell is present in the Christian faith. Hell is a dogma of Faith, reaffirmed by the Council of Trent. But is there anyone who can really say an eternal, definitive “no” to God, to such a lovable, tender, sweet, beautiful, comely, fascinating God?

We have always been divided into opposing factions on this point. “Already starting from the New Testament, two theses in tension with each other have been confronted. On the one hand, there is the “infernal” conception that emerges in quite a few sayings of the historical Jesus and which will enter the mainstream of Christian theology, especially through Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Calvin. On the other hand, there is the doctrine of “apocatastasis”, that is, of global final reconciliation and redemption, present in Saint Paul and in the fourth Gospel of John, and from there developed in particular in the “mystical” line of theology. The first thesis exalts the necessary theme of justice which requires a double outcome in the judgment on human actions (of salvation for the just and of condemnation for the sinner); the second underlines the primacy of divine merciful love, opening a passage of «universal hope»” (G. Ravasi). The doctrine of “apocatastasis” (apokatàstasis), or “reestablishment” or “reintegration”, finds its biblical foundation in those texts which proclaim that, at the end of time, “everything will have been subjected to the Son…, so that God may be everything in everyone” (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 everyone, including demons: the infinite love of God in fact cannot find limits, and in the end it will triumph over everything and everyone. The doctrine of apocatastasis, however, was condemned as heresy by the Church in the Councils of Constantinople of 543 and subsequent years.

A full Hell or an empty Hell?

According to the Church, there is therefore the theoretical possibility that man says a definitive “no” to God and therefore, moving away forever from him, the source of joy and life, finds himself in that reality of unhappiness and death that we call commonly “hell”. But is it practically possible for man to say a definitive no to God? Two opposing currents have always been present in the Church. On the one hand the “justice activists”, who claim that hell is full of the many evil and violent people who have infested and continue to infest the earth. On the other hand, the so-called “merciful” (C. M. Martini, Joseph Ratzinger himself, Karl Rahner…), who affirm 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 vision of him or a bad testimony from believers, and therefore his personal responsibility is limited.

The debate between the “justice” and the “merciful” will continue for a long time to come. But in any case it is better to be benevolent, lenient and generous in your judgments, because Jesus warns: “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you in return” (Lk 7,36-38). We should then be very forgiving…

And always keep in mind that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so 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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