In Luke 13: 22–30 The Apostles ask Jesus who will be saved? The answer is a perennial one that has varying degrees of accuracy.
There are those who will pronounce that few will be saved and there are those who will pronounce that virtually everyone will be saved. The most important answer, however, is the correct one which is somewhere in the middle.
One of the two inaccurate extremes can be found in the urban legend of a saint who went to Heaven and then returned to meet his friend only to tell him that out of the whole town only three people made it to Heaven. It is what is known as apocryphal literature and personal revelation and not required for belief. One must be careful with this literature because the obvious response can be, “well if only three people are saved out of the whole town, what are the chances of me being one of the three? Virtually none, so why waste my time seeking salvation.” That becomes a temptation to the sin of despair which is one of the sins against the Holy Spirit. Forget the story and don’t tell it. You do not want to be responsible for someone getting too discouraged to pursue the road to salvation.
The other extreme can be found in the story that when we die, Jesus appears to us and his grace is so overwhelming that it would be impossible not to convert right then and therefore virtually everyone is saved. That has absolutely no basis in Catholic teaching and even Jesus said that is not true when in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, he says that if they do not listen now, even if one should resurrect from the dead it would not change their hearts. That opens the door to the sin of presumption which also is a sin against the Holy Spirit. It leads one to think: “I assume that I am saved no matter what, so why do we need to have anything to do with God. Eat Drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will die and go to Heaven anyway.” Forget that story too.
So what is the actual answer.
Fr Paulo Ricardo Azevedo Jr. gives the best answer I know.
He says when you look carefully at this reading, Jesus never mentions numbers. What he says is “You choose the narrow road.”
So we have a call to live our faith, because it is part of our vocation. Remember, Jesus calls us to be his witnesses. Again, we do not earn our way to Heaven, we do his will. Our role is to witness to Christ so that He can work through us for the salvation of the many. Over and over again he calls us to live by a different standard so that we can testify to the risen Christ and that others will be saved. He warns us that if we are just like everyone else then we are basically useless to him, we are salt that lost its flavor or light hidden under a bushel basket.
This can bring us to a good discussion of Heaven and Hell. Who does go to Hell? The answer can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that those who remain obstinate in sin, who choose their own will over God’s consistently and to the end, they go to Hell. There is your answer.
Who goes to Heaven? Those who die in God’s grace and friendship. The reality is that if you seek Christ you will find Him.
One of the great errors that comes from the everyone goes to Hell crowd, is that our salvation is all on us. We have to work hard so that on the day of judgement God will let us into Heaven. Until that time, it is all on us.
That is false. They will tell you that if you commit a mortal sin, God abandons you and leaves you on your own. That is false too.
God does everything He can to see that you get into Heaven and the most obvious example is the second person of the trinity giving himself up to death that many may be saved. God does all he can that we can be saved.
Padre Pio taught that if we commit a mortal sin, God does distance himself from us, but leaves his angels to help us back to the right path. Part of that right path is the sacrament of penance which restores our union with God.
We are Catholics, therefore, we also believe in Purgatory, which is where those who are not yet ready are purified so that they can receive what they need to enter into Heaven. Anyone who enters purgatory leaves there a saint. God has the structure in place to ensure that we get to Heaven. If you find yourself walking down a path to sin, the best response is to begin to pray and God gives you everything you will need to get back to the path.
St. Alphonsus Liguori taught that those who pray are saved and those who don’t are not.
God and all the hosts of Heaven do all they can to ensure you have the grace to choose the road to salvation.
Therefore, those who go to Hell are those who hardened their heart against God obstinately refusing his grace to the very end.
Do they exist? Yes. The most obvious example are those who demand their world their way. They demand the Church their way and they teach you to join them.
Remember, after his resurrection, Jesus never returned to the pharisees. He never spoke to King Herod or the bad thief on the cross. Indeed, notice his form of condemnation — “I never knew you.”
These are the people filled with pride, obstinacy and a hardened heart.
Many of the people who promote the idea of universalism — we have a reasonable hope that all will be saved — are usually theologians who do not live in the real world where people encounter evil. So, they do not encounter it.
Those who live in the real world have usually had some form of experience with evil that many of those theologians do not. Robbers, drug dealers, extortionists, manipulators and so much more.
Meanwhile, those who seem to dance in celebration, in the offices of their so called ministries, at their belief that most people are going to Hell, do not seem to understand the mercy of God, but only his judgement. I do not hold much hope for them going to Heaven either, to be honest for God said, it is mercy I desire and not sacrifice.
We have a vocation and a duty to do all we can that the most hardened of sinner knows God’s mercy and call to repentance.
We need to testify to truths of Christ and His Church. God through his grace and his heavenly hosts gives us all the assistance we need to do his will and live the faith.
We live the narrow road of following Christ so that others may be saved.
Photo: Kanetsu [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]