I have had a lot of time to think lately because I have been in isolation with COVID-19 for two weeks. I am really hoping to be out of isolation by the time you read this. But, I thought I owed you all some sort of explanation on why I have been away for so long. I am not in pain, I’m being taken care of and I am just waiting for some symptoms to go away before I know it is safe to return to normal contact with people. Please keep me in your prayers.
During my time away, I have been reading a book called, “A Church in Crisis” by Ralph Martin where he talks about the various recent problems in the Church and how there is still hope. One problem Martin particular points out is a tendency in our church to assume that everyone is going to heaven no matter what. This is known as Universalism. There are two main problems with Universalism. The first is that the Church never taught it. It is at best a speculative position that became popular after the Second Vatican Council because we are called by the Council to look as positively on other religions, seeing the good in them and how they lead to Christ. In short, many felt it judgmental to say anyone might not go to heaven.
The second problem is more to the point: Christ teaches against it in passages like the one we read in today’s Gospel. When the disciples ask Jesus, how many will be saved? He responds by talking about how narrow the gate is and how even those who they know and follow Him will be left out because of their wickedness. I believe our Lord is telling His disciples this because He does not want them to rest on their laurels. If we assume we are going to heaven no matter what, we have very little motivation to grow in holiness or to encourage others to holiness. In fact, it is those who are most sure of their salvation that are probably the furthest from it (see our Gospel from last week about the Pharisee and the Publican). Have you ever noticed that whenever someone says, “I am a good Catholic,” or “I have been a Catholic all my life,” it is usually then followed by some sort of statement that is not what the Church teaches?
Salvation is not an automatic result from being in the right group or having the right opinions. Salvation comes from being a follower of Christ. It takes listening to Him and doing His will. It is something that must be chosen every day and when we fail to live up to what is good and true, we need to repent of our evil ways. And in the end, God who is merciful and just will know what you treasured most: this life or the life of the world to come.