Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Being Saved, the Narrow Gate, and All That

Today's Gospel reading is Luke 13:22-30. That's the part where we find:
"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....' "
(Luke 13:24-25)
There's a mess of opportunities for misunderstanding here. The one that crossed my mind first was what 'the First Church of Me and Thee' seems to think.

Having Standards, Getting a Grip

In a way, it's a comforting sort of faith; the notion that:
  • Heaven is
    • Populated exclusively by folks with similar tastes in
      • Clothing
      • Music
      • Hair styles
      • Entertainment
      • Politics
    • A sort of eternal 'members-only' social club
  • God is
    • Against things I don't like
    • For things I approve of
Back in my youth, a remarkable number of folks acted as if one of God's commands was that women dress just the way ladies did:
  • In America
  • From about 1945 to 1955
I've posted about that before.1

The Catholic Church has standards of behavior,2 including the way we dress: but they're a bit more, well, catholic, than what you'll get from the 'First Church of Fred.'

Faith and Works

Happily, since I'm a practicing Catholic: I don't need to guess what Luke 13: 22-30 'really' means:
"9 [22-30] These sayings of Jesus follow in Luke upon the parables of the kingdom (⇒ Luke 13:18-21) and stress that great effort is required for entrance into the kingdom (⇒ Luke 13:24) and that there is an urgency to accept the present opportunity to enter because the narrow door will not remain open indefinitely (⇒ Luke 13:25). Lying behind the sayings is the rejection of Jesus and his message by his Jewish contemporaries (⇒ Luke 13:26) whose places at table in the kingdom will be taken by Gentiles from the four corners of the world (⇒ Luke 13:29). Those called last (the Gentiles) will precede those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended (the Jews). See also ⇒ Luke 14:15-24."
(Footnote 9, Luke 13)
That "great effort is required for entrance into the kingdom" doesn't mean that Catholics are told we can earn a place in the Kingdom of God. We're not told that all we need to do is 'really believe,' either. Again, I've been over that before.3

By the way, the Jews weren't collectively responsible for the Crucifixion. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 597) We all were, and are, personally. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 597-599)

Am I 'Saved?'

For most of my life, I had major depression. I definitely have not "felt saved." Not even close.4 Add ADHD-inattentive to the mix, both undiagnosed until a few years ago: and that's another topic. Bottom line, I'm on medication now: which is an enormous improvement.5

But, am I "saved?" Since I don't go to the 'First Church of Fred,' or have beliefs like the fellow in Robert Burns' "Holy Willie's Prayer," there are folks who probably think I'm not.

Goofy theology bothers me, but letting it affect me is an option. I'm concerned about what my Lord has to say about the matter, since it's His opinion that counts.

So, am I "saved?"

Since I haven't died yet, I'm 'working out' my salvation. Philippians 2:12, and all that.

Wait a minute, though. Wasn't there a point in time when I was saved?


That moment was about two thousand years back, on Golgotha.6


Looking at the big picture, I'm either "saved:" or I'm not. Which brings up "predestination."

Doesn't God 'predestine' the 'good people' for Heaven, so I can get away with any sort of damned foolishness now?


It doesn't work that way. Not at all. (Catechism, 600)

Sort-of-related posts:

1 The Catholic Church has standards, established by God, about how folks should act. We've also been around for two millennia, and stand on a foundation that goes back several thousand years more.

Quite a bit has changed since the Babylonian Empire went out of business, including:
  • Clothing
  • Technology
  • Politics
I think it's silly to act as if God wants everything to be the way it was when I was a teen: or any other period. More about that:
2 Like I said, the Catholic Church has standards. Which doesn't mean what you may have read in the papers.

One of our standards is that we are not - definitely, specifically, not - supposed to hate people. Any people:
3 It's "faith and works, not "faith or works." Yes, believing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ is important. So is what a person does with that belief:
  • "Love God, love your neighbor"
    (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31)
  • My works and faith will be rewarded right after I die
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1021)
    • One way or another
My take on what's expected:
4 Not being 'hooked on a feeling, high on believing,' has its advantages. I've learned how to think about what I believe, instead of 'trusting my feelings,' or 'doing what my heart tells me.' That "Hooked On A Feeling" golden oldie was about the emotional rush we call 'being in love,' and that's another topic.

5 "On medication?" Aren't Christians supposed to trust God? Yes. I'm a Catholic Christian. We're expected to trust God: and not be stupid. I've posted about that sort of thing:
6 The death of my Lord, for the sake of my sins, is a pretty big deal. (Matthew 27:33-54, Mark 15:33-39, Luke 23:33-47, John 19:17-37, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Hebrews 5:9) There's a pretty good summary of what's going on there in the Catechism, 600-617.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.