Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Will Many Be Saved? The 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time




If Jesus was walking through your town and you had ten seconds as he passed to ask any question you wished, what would it be?  “Why is there evil in the world?” “How can I be saved?” “What is heaven like?”

In this Sunday’s Gospel, an anonymous bystander gets his chance to ask Jesus one of the “big questions”: “Will only a few people be saved?”  Jesus’ answer is complex, indirect, and very well worth examining!  The Readings leading up to the Gospel help prepare us to understand Jesus’ response.

1.  The First Reading is Is 66:18-21:

Thus says the LORD:
I know their works and their thoughts,
and I come to gather nations of every language;
they shall come and see my glory.

I will set a sign among them;
from them I will send fugitives to the nations:
to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan,
to the distant coastlands
that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory;
and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.
They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations
as an offering to the LORD,
on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries,
to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD,
just as the Israelites bring their offering
to the house of the LORD in clean vessels.
Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.


This is a famous and extremely important passage that essentially ends the Book of Isaiah, which was and is by far the most influential of all the books of the prophets, both in Judaism and in Christianity.  The Fathers called Isaiah the “Fifth Gospel”, and it is the only Old Testament book (besides the Psalms) which seriously rivals any of the Gospels for “air time” in the Lectionary: it’s read in Masses for Sundays and Feast Days more often than Mark and just shy of Matthew.

Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls far more than any other prophet, showing that the theological perspectives and expectations of the people of Jesus’ day were profoundly shaped by this book.  For that reason, it is of great significance to examine the way this book ends (which is our First Reading).

It is probably intentional that the opening and closing oracles of the Book of Isaiah include grave rebukes against the present generation of Israel for corrupt liturgical celebration (1:10-17; 66:1-4) as well as a more positive vision of a glorious future in which all humanity will be joined in worship of the LORD in Zion (2:1-5; 66:22-23).  The arc of narrative of human history in Isaiah begins with the inadequate worship of ethnic Israel in the present and moves toward the perfect worship of all humanity in the future.  Isaiah’s vision of the destiny of mankind is well summarized by the last oracle of the Book (which comes right after our First Reading):

Is. 66:22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain.  23 From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.

Isaiah’s oracle represents a restoration of God’s creation intent for humanity.  As Adam was created homo liturgicus and first priest in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time, so at the end of time all humanity will be reunited in its intended destiny to praise God.

Now let’s look at the First Reading more closely.  It relates a series of events.  God speaks first of (1) gathering in the nations and setting his sign among them.  From these ingathered nations, he will (2) send “fugitives” to still further nations who do not know him.  There, these “fugitives” will preach about God’s glory.  Then, it appears that (3) these further nations will bring Israelites with them as they make pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and (4) from among these mixed pilgrims the LORD will appoint some for priestly ministry.

This conclusion of Isaiah may be understood as vision of the missionary expansion of the Church.  First, the “nations” (Gentiles) are gathered to God—this takes place already in the apostolic period, especially through the ministry of St. Paul.  Then, members of these ingathered Gentiles are themselves sent out to further Gentile nations to preach God’s glory.  This would correspond to the Church’s missionary efforts after the apostolic era, even down to the present day.  Among these distant nations to which Gentile “fugitives” go to preach the Gospel, there are persons descended from the Ten Tribes of Israel, whose identity is known only to God.  These persons respond, along with other Gentiles, to the Church’s preaching, and in this way they are reconciled to the LORD and restored to his covenant, in fulfillment of God’s promises to all Twelve Tribes.  This is described under a figure by Isaiah, who speaks of Israelites (“your brothers and sisters,” that is, the ethnic relatives of the prophet) being brought back to “Jerusalem” by the Gentiles as an “offering” to God.  Finally, some among this mixed multitude of Gentiles and Jews that comes to “Jerusalem” on pilgrimage are appointed to priestly duty, indicating that in the age to come, the priesthood will no longer be limited to the tribe of Levi, as it was under the Old Covenant.

Thus, in light of Christ, we can recognize that conclusion of Isaiah to be a prophecy of the missionary expansion of the Church, through which both Gentiles and Israelites will become reconciled to God.


2.  The Responsorial Psalm is Ps 117:1, 2:

R. (Mk 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
Praise the LORD all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

Psalm 117 is the shortest of all the Psalms, and the entirety of it can be quoted here (RSV):

1 Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples! 
2 For great is his steadfast love toward us;
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever.
Praise the LORD!

Thus, this shortest Psalm is basically just a command for “all nations” to praise the LORD. 

I believe that many of the Psalms were composed in the age of David and Solomon, as their superscriptions claim.  During the Davidic-Solomonic period, the kingdom ruled from Jerusalem became a Near Eastern empire, assimilating several surrounding Gentile nations (Edom, Ammon, Moab, Arabia, Aram/Syria) and receiving tribute from others.  The commands in many of the Psalms for “the nations” to praise the LORD are not empty rhetoric.  In ancient times, embassies and other representatives of the vassal nations incorporated within the Davidic empire were often in Jerusalem, and would have paid a visit to the royal sanctuary (eventually the Temple) in order to pay their respects to the LORD, the patron deity of their suzerain (the Davidic king).  So Gentiles were present in the Temple courtyards in ancient times, and the Levites chanted to them various commands to praise God. 

This Psalm reminds us that the international character of the Church was foreshadowed in the Old Testament already in the international character of David’s kingdom.  The Church is David’s kingdom, because Jesus the Son of David rules over the Church as King.

3.  The Second Reading is Heb 12:5-7, 11-13:

Brothers and sisters,
You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
Endure your trials as “discipline”;
God treats you as sons.
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
At the time,
all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

At this time in the Church year, the Second Reading is moving semi-continuously through the end of Hebrews (chs. 11-13).  Hebrews appears to have been addressed to Jewish Christians who were under pressure to return to Judaism, perhaps even under physical persecution from relatives and officials.  The author of Hebrews helps his readers understand theologically the difficulty they are experiencing.  It is not a sign of God’s hatred, nor of a curse.  Rather, it is a sign of God’s love, who acts as a Father toward his children.  Christians should not become discouraged in the face of hardship and opposition, but should be invigorated by it, knowing that God permits it for the perfection of their faith.

In the Gospel, Jesus is going to teach that the way of salvation involves struggle: one must “strive” to enter the “narrow gate”, and not all will be “strong” enough.  This suggests there will be persecution and opposition along the path to salvation, and this Second Reading helps us to understand that such painful experiences are not contrary to the love of God the Father.

4.  The Gospel is Lk 13:22-30:

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

We have long past the mid-point of the liturgical year and we are now marching more quickly with Jesus along the path of his final journey in the Travel Narrative (Luke 10-19).  This journey of Jesus will culminate in his death, and the readings for the past several Sundays have been somber in tone.  This Sunday is no exception.

The questioner asks, “Will only a few be saved?”  Jesus—as is typical of him—does not give a direct answer.  Instead, he responds with a command: “Strive to enter the narrow gate!”

In essence, Jesus is telling the questioner: “Do not worry about abstract questions like the exact number or percentage of people who will end up being saved.  Such knowledge will not be revealed to you, and in any event would do you know good, one way or the other.  Your concern should be for your own salvation, because the path of salvation is not easy.”

Jesus says “strive to enter the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter, but will not be strong enough.”

This clearly teaches that the path of salvation will involve struggle, and not everyone will be successful.  In fact, many will not be successful.

How different an attitude this is from what passes as Christianity in America!  A great disservice has been done to the Faith by a variety of groups.  First, there are Protestants who teach “salvation by faith alone” in such a way that the path to salvation appears to be an easy matter of believing, without growth in holiness or an ascetical struggle.  This is clearly wrong—a denial of Jesus’ preaching.  Then, there are theologians in universities and seminaries who have been teaching for generations that basically everyone is going to heaven almost despite themselves, and few if any will end up in hell.  This view has no real basis in Sacred Scripture or the Church’s tradition.  I cannot make the argument here, but Ralph Martin does it brilliantly in his new book, Will Many Be Saved?  What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization.  It is heartening that Martin’s book is endorsed by many of the “top brass” of the American episcopate, indicating that prelates at the highest levels have realized how dangerous the “easy salvationism” really is for the health of the Church.  Finally, there is the liturgical abuse by which scarcely practicing Catholics, and sometimes open dissenters and publically immoral persons, are virtually canonized at their funerals, with all the congregants being assured that—despite the deceased’s evident lack of any concern for experiencing communion with Jesus while alive—he is now surely in heaven with the Lord.  This kind of liturgy is a powerful teaching tool: it teaches lay Catholics that everyone will go to heaven almost despite anything one does or believes.  But is that what Jesus taught? 

Jesus’ words are particularly aimed at his own generation.  He describes people knocking on the door of the heavenly wedding banquet, saying, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.  Yet, they will find themselves cast out as evildoers, while Gentiles from the north, south, east, and west will take their place at the “table in the kingdom of God.”

The first meaning of Jesus message was to his own contemporaries, that they should take seriously the opportunity he is offering them to repent and follow him now.  Casual acquaintance with Jesus during his earthly ministry will do nothing for their eternal salvation.

Nonetheless, there is a secondary spiritual sense to Jesus’ words that apply especially to those of us who attend Church and believe we know Jesus.  We “eat and drink” with him, and he teaches us in our Churches.  We are familiar with Jesus.  We think we know him.  We have had “X” years of Catholic schooling, or we went to the University of “X” Saint, or our mother prays the rosary often, or maybe even we ourselves pray the rosary often, so we think we “know” Jesus.  We are on the inside track.  He’ll recognize us when we get to the pearly gates.

God forbid we are in for a shock!

Jesus’ teaching is a rude awakening for any who presume their salvation!  Those who do are likely to find themselves displaced at the heavenly banquet by others they don’t recognize. 

The appropriate response to this Gospel is repentance, and a resolution to “deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Jesus.”  We need to stop living lives aimed at pleasure, submit fully to all Jesus’ teachings as transmitted by his Church, re-read Matt. 5-7, and adjust our lifestyles accordingly.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "instant canonization often described in funeral services today is a real dis-service to the deceased. "It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." I think that's from Maccabees II, but I don't recall the chapter or verse.
We do pray for deceased friends and family members, and have some masses offered.
TeaPot562

Heidi said...

Thank you Prof. Bergsma for another enlightening post. It is interesting (and I don't think it's a coincidence) that while Isaiah begins and ends with an exhortation against liturgical abuse, the Gospel mentions that some of those who will not be saved will have been participants in what they call "liturgy" (we ate and drank with you...).
It seems that "knowing" Christ is tied up in "right worship".
I am always reminded to remain vigilant when I notice the conspicuous absence of words such as "perhaps" "maybe" "could be" but instead affirmative statements such as "there WILL be" in Christ's discources on the reality of hell and the difficulty in salvation.

Brad Henry said...

I recall Balthasar once saying (I believe in 'The Christian and Anxiety') that the life of faith cannot, by its very nature, be capture in 'snap-shot', but only in the momentum of step-after-step. It is, to use his terms, a dramatic reality. It seems as if Jesus response points to the 'drama of salvation' (follow the way), while the people's response as to his 'presence' tends toward a type of 'snap-shot' vision.

Lee Gilbert said...

Thank you for this reflection, Professor Bergsma

On a recent Sunday the homilist began by saying how delighted he was with a book he had recently been reading, a recommendation from the former Archbishop: Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Gospel by James Martin, a Jesuit. Immediately I had the sense of things going off of the rails, that something was very much the matter. For one thing, it certainly was not preaching on the Gospel or any of the readings. Honestly, I wanted to stand up and say, "Don't do it, Father!" He did observe that it is true that the Gospels nowhere show Jesus laughing, though certainly he must have at some point. He observed that joy is a critical part of the New Evangelization, something that the Archbishop had also repeatedly emphasized. He said that those of us of a certain age would remember how gloomy the Church used to be.

But when I cast my eyes back to those "gloomy" years in the fifties and early sixties I remember an old Monsignor mounting the pulpit Sunday after Sunday like Moses coming down from the mountain. He was a fountain of lava, enormously eloquent, Spirit-filled and holy, pouring out wrath upon our civilization and upon our sins with hard scriptures, Church history, priestly lore, and with total rhetorical competence. Among other things I remember his telling of man who eventually became a saint, and who was set on that journey by discovering one morning in his bed the woman he had been living with dead and with her bowels burst open. Yes, you could say that was gloomy. With such tales and with the Gospel, that old German Monsignor was salt and light in the post-war years in suburban Chicago, and he bore great fruit. During his tenure fourteen priestly vocations came from that parish. Every Mass was standing room only. We were a well-salted and well-enlightened congregation.

Not only is it true that one finds no instance of Jesus laughing or even smiling in the Gospels, but in Matthew especially he comes across as a very stern figure indeed, mentioning the word Hell on the order of 61 times. He was not a comedian or a humorist but had come from Heaven to save us from Hell with words of fire and light, and with his body nailed to the cross, but unfortunately for us and for our civilization our preachers find Hell to be a very gloomy subject indeed, even indelicate to mention in polite company. They often seem to have very little idea why they are priests in the first place. As a result, we are out of grace, our children are falling away, our schools are closing, our children are not marrying nor becoming priests or religious. We truly have a famine of the word of God. Now we have the New Evangelization. Against this one could hardly object were it not for the fact that its method and content seems only to be, "If we smile, they will come." It is merely a new riff on the old de-evangelization: the gospel emptied of the cross, of sacrifice, of that salutary "gloom" - the repentance without which no man will see God.

Anonymous said...

John, great to see your face! An old friend, Fr. M

david nagle said...

Contact us for more information at http://www.carrollsrs.com or 1-800-876-4569.
"Carroll's Tree of Life" Helping recognize your Parishioners and grow your parish since 1980.

Paxchristi said...

I have sung at perhaps 500 funerals over the years, and one might suggest I have seen and heard it all. I would hazard that in all those years I may have heard the word "purgatory" five times, and the vast majority of the homilies (which do include a eulogy by the priest) end with: "this dear soul is now at peace in heaven, and one day we will be reunited with them." In fact, I heard those words today.

The problem at a funeral is two-fold. First, the congregation is made up of family, friends, and acquaintances; some are Catholic, some are lapsed, others are from other denominations, and there are also non-believers. For a faithful homilist, here is the golden, gleeful, hand-rubbing opportunity to preach the unvarnished gospel to vulnerable listeners; but, instead, at most funerals, the assembled hear lukewarm "we're all going to heaven" pap. What a tremendous disservice to those gathered there. For the most part, these mourners walk away convinced they are going to heaven; after all, "Father" as much said so. Further, there is the disservice to the deceased, for the congregation is rarely exhorted to pray for his/her soul.

Related to this is that some/many in the congregation know the deceased person well; they know if Fred went to Mass, was faithful to his wife, cheated on his taxes, uttered profanities, mocked the Church, was abusive to others - and more. If, sadly, Fred was indeed a rascal, neglecting his faith and ignoring God, then the scandal increases; the message from the pulpit is even clearer for some that heaven is a big, free-for-all happy fizzies party; no requirements necessary. Had a good thought once or twice? C'mon in!

And then there are the family eulogies often occurring within the Mass. It is clear that in many cases the eulogists did not receive any guidelines for the content. As suggested above, I have indeed heard it all.

I pray bishops will quickly address this ongoing scandal to the faith. Dear Princes of the Church: How about lowering the boom at the next priests' retreat?

Highland Cathedral said...

I intend to leave strict instructions that when it comes to my turn there will be no eulogy and that there will be no mention of my being in Heaven. Also I will ask that a request is made that those present at the funeral (well, those who are Catholic, anyway) pray for the release of my soul from Purgatory. (Or is it too presumptuous that my soul might even be so lucky as to be in Purgatory?) The subject of the homily should be the four last things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. As someone else has already mentioned there are usually lapsed Catholics and even non-Christians at Catholic funerals so the homily is an excellent time (perhaps the only time) that these people will be given a chance to be reminded of those things. And, incidentally, the words ‘in celebration of the life of’ will be particularly banned.

Rev.Fr.Antony Marcus sss said...

We are all sinners except God alone. But there should be a sincere attempt to over come it by sacrificing our own pleasures in the world. It is somewhat hard but there is no other option to enter into the Kingdom of God. God ways are completely different from human ways. Let us therefore work hard to achieve life eternal as Jesus himself instructs by following the Narrow Path.

Anonymous said...

after reading the powerful reflection, then some of the commentary: priests should do this, bishops should do that,the bowels of the dead should... I need to remember that Jesus' response was meant for me, not for thee.

De Maria said...

You said, Jesus’ answer is complex, indirect, and very well worth examining!

In that vein, I'd like to mention that I have often wondered on this subject.

The verse says:

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough. "


It is also said that faith does not contradict reason.

As a consequence, I tend to believe that there will be more people entering heaven than is generally understood. And the proof of this, in my opinion, is the case of the Jews:

Heb 11:39 Jesus’ answer is complex, indirect, and very well worth examining!

When it comes to the Jews, they got in through the wide gate. According to Catholic Doctrine, only two or three got in through the narrow gate. Enoch, Elijah and Moses. Other than that, the others are presumed to have remained in the Limbo of the Fathers until Jesus let them in.

I mentioned faith and reason because in school, we are taught that most things fall in a happy medium. It is called a bell curve. If we apply that to salvation, most people are neither evil nor holy. They fall right in the middle. These people, in my opinion are going to wind up in the Christian Limbo. The one we more commonly refer to as Purgatory.

A small minority will go directly to hell because they have no redeemable qualities and have willfully turned away from God and persisted in that condition to the end.

Another small minority will go directly to heaven. They are the Saints. Both the Canonized which are recognized by the Church and those who live anonymously holy lives whom only God knows about in this life.

Therefore, I believe that most people are going to end up in Purgatory and then going to heaven. That is Catholic Doctrine. And a small minority will bypass Purgatory and go straight to heaven.

And another minority will wind up in the Lake of Fire for all eternity.

I believe this is the Catholic Teaching. But I have not found it explicitly taught. So, please let me know if you can prove that I am wrong.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

Sorry about that. Correction, Heb 11:39-40 says:

Hebrews 11:39-40
King James Version (KJV)
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

That means that the Jewish people, as a whole, were in a place we call the Limbo of the Fathers. Essentially, they were in Purgatory until Jesus died upon the Cross and descended into "hell" to release them and bring them into heaven. This is Catholic Teaching.

Paragraph 1. Christ Descended into Hell

632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was "raised from the dead" presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.478 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ's descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.479

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into "Abraham's bosom":481 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."482 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.483

634 "The gospel was preached even to the dead."484 The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."485 Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."486 Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."487

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him - He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . "I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead."488


But this means that the majority of the faithful Jewish people got into heaven through the wide gate. Not the narrow gate. They did not enter directly into heaven, but went through a place of suffering and destruction first.

Some will say that the Limbo of the Fathers is not Purgatory. But I say that it is. God is absolute and does not change. Therefore, the Limbo of the Fathers is the equivalent of Purgatory. It is, in fact, the very same thing.

That is my opinion anyway.

Sincerely,

De Maria

John Bergsma said...

Wow, this post provoked more comments than any other readings commentary I have put up! Thank you all for contributing.

De Maria, the "bell curve" concept sounds appealing, but I can't think of any Scripture or magisterial statement to support it.

God bless!

De Maria said...

I've not heard of any doctrine that uses the same terminology either. But I think the Church supports it. It certainly does not deny it.

First, the Church rejects the teaching of Total Depravity. The Church recognizes that men are made in the image of God and basically good.

Also, the Church teaches that in order to go to hell, one must willfully turn from God and persist in that turning away til the end.

Luke 13:24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

Many will strive to enter into it. That doesn't sound as though Jesus were speaking of those who have willfully turned away from God.

In addition, the Church teaches that a man must follow his conscience as the first Magisterium.

And from life, we know that the vast majority of men get along with each other. Men only condemn a few people to jail and to the death sentence. Even in those countries we call uncivilized.

God is more merciful than man. But if the vast majority of men do not condemn each other, then how is God more merciful than man if He condemns the vast majority of men to eternal damnation?

1 Timothy 2:4
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

So, I believe the Church definitely supports the idea that Jesus was comparing those who would go directly to heaven (narrow gate) to those who would go to heaven through purgatory plus those who would be eternally condemned (wide door).

She leaves the question of the ratio of those condemned to purgatory versus those condemned to eternal punishment without an explicit answer. But the answer can be derived from that which she teaches on the subject.

Anyway, that is my opinion. I was just checking to see if a Catholic could disprove it.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Daddyof4 said...

De Maria,
I have to admit, your reasoning is very comforting for someone like me to accept, given the struggles I go through in my daily life. I DO want to spend eternal life with God in Heaven, but I often struggle with sin (mortal and venial) on a daily basis. The teaching of the narrow gate is one of the things that keeps me participating frequently in the sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. I only speak for myself in saying that I need NOT concern myself with how many people will enter Heaven (through Purgatory or straight in), but I need to worry about living a Holy life and fighting the daily battle. I have to assume that my salvation is not guaranteed to me unless I accept Jesus, which means to follow Him and live the life He wants for me through my faith and actions.

De Maria said...

Hi Daddyof4,

As one daddy of four to another, the only thing I can say is that fear is a great motivator. The Catholic Church accepts fear is a wonderful motivator for salvation. However, the Catholic Church teaches that the perfect motivator for salvation (i.e. reception of the sacraments) is love. We must strive to be motivated by love rather than fear.

Thanks for the comment.