The Truth About Predestination
Wednesday October 29, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 8:26-30) Gospel (St. Luke 13:22-30)
Saint Paul, in the first reading from his Letter to the Romans, tells us that all things work together for good for those who believe. Now when we look at our lives, we realize that there is very much there that we would not consider to be good. In fact, sometimes many of us might even consider that the vast majority of the things we get ourselves involved in are not so good, or the things that happen to us we would not consider to be all that good. Yet, as we look back over what God has done with all of these things – including our sins – He brings good out of them. God does not waste anything. It is not that He wants us to go out and sin, but as long as we have done something as stupid as whatever it is we have done, He will use it to help other people. It is a fascinating thing how He brings right into your life the very person who is about to do the same foolish thing that you have done so you can speak to that person from experience; whereas someone who has not done whatever it is would not be able to say anything, at least not from experience. And so God will bring good out of that.
He will also use those things to help us to evaluate our relationship with the Lord. When we know that our sins are forgiven because we have been to confession, it is a rather easy thing to be able to put them aside and just keep on walking. But one of the things the Lord will sometimes do as we move along is He will help us to be able to see just how badly our sinfulness has hurt our own selves. Then, in light of that, He will allow us to see His mercy and just how gracious and how merciful He has been to us, so that even in the face of the worst sins we have committed we will still be able to rejoice in the mercy of God. We will be able to say without hesitation, “If God can be so merciful to me, He can also be so merciful to anyone else.” And we can bring that message of mercy to other people, that no matter what it is they have done that they too can be forgiven and that God will bring good out of all of this even for those people.
Saint Paul then goes on to tell us that these people He foreknew, and, in knowing them beforehand, He therefore predestined them. Now we need to be very careful about this understanding of predestination. It is not according to the way that a non-Catholic would understand predestination because many of the non-Catholics, especially those following John Calvin, do not even believe that we have a free will; therefore, their notion of predestination has to do with basically being a puppet on a string. Calvin actually believed in what he called “double predestination”. That is, God created some people to go to heaven and everyone else He created to go to hell. Period. You have no say in it; you have no choice in the matter; it is a black and white thing and that is all. That is not anything even remotely close to what the Catholic Church would teach. The notion of predestination from a Catholic perspective has to do with the fact that God knows who is going to be saved and He knows the means by which they will be saved. It does not mean, however, that God created some people in order to be saved and the rest He created in order to be condemned. God desires the salvation of every single soul, and He knows from all eternity who will cooperate with His grace and be saved and who will not.
That is why Our Lord in the Gospel reading today tells us, Try to enter through the narrow way, because we have to try to cooperate with God. To enter through the narrow way is going to be to recognize how God will bring good out of everything for us, and how if we cooperate with His grace that we will be able to enter into heaven. If we do not try, if we do not exercise our free will and seek to do the Will of God and seek to cooperate with His grace, then we are not going to enter the kingdom of God. We will be able to say with these people from the Gospel, “But, Lord, You preached in our streets and You ate with us and You were with us!” And He will say, “I don’t know who you are. You’re on the wrong path. You’re on the wide and easy road that leads to condemnation, not on the rough and narrow path. You’re trying to enter through the wide way, not through the narrow way. Nobody is going to enter that way.” There will be wailing and grinding of teeth because the door will be closed.
And so when we see the way God works in our lives, how He will bring good even out of the things that are the most evil and how He brings good out of the things that happen to us that we consider to be the worst, then we have to see how He will also work to bring us to salvation. But we have to cooperate. We have to use our free will to say “yes” to those graces, and not get arrogant and think, “Well, since God has forgiven me of all these things, I can continue to go out and sin because He’ll bring good out of it.” Wrong attitude. God will bring good out of the things that we do, but we cannot be going out and intentionally doing them in a manner which is going to be just simply relying on God’s mercy and presuming that He will forgive us. Rather, once we recognize how merciful He has been, we have to then cooperate with our whole heart and seek to walk on that narrow way because God knows and He has chosen us – predestined us in that way – to be conformed to the image of His Son. And if He has done that He has called us; and if He has called us then He has justified us, which means that we are in the state of grace; and anyone who dies in the state of grace He will also glorify. That is His desire for each and every one of us. It is predicated, however, on the fact that we will cooperate, that we will use our free will to choose to do His Will, and that we will die in the state of grace so that we, who have been justified in God, who have seen that He brings good together out of everything, will then be glorified so that we in turn can glorify Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.