Certainly all of us who work with young people know that we are called to proclaim the “Good News.” But what about the bad news?
Three years ago, a survey of American Christians showed that only 32% of Christians believe in hell. Though these surveys were directed towards Christian adults of all denominations, it is fair to assume that Catholic teenagers would respond in a similar way.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to a suburban parish outside of Rome and said, “Jesus came to tell us every one is wanted in paradise, and that hell, about which little gets said today, exists and is eternal for those who shut their hearts to his love.”
Talking about hell can pose a challenge for those who work with young people today. Inevitable questions are raised:
“Who does the Church think is in hell?”
“Does the Church think that all of those who are not Catholic are burning in eternal flames?”
“If God loves everybody, then how can anybody be in hell?”
The difficult answers to these questions often discourage catechists from speaking to youth about this topic. But if young people don't understand the horrors of hell, they can never appreciate in the same way what Christ went through to bring them to heaven.
Or to put it another way, the Good News isn't really good unless the bad news is really bad.