Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Are there few that are saved? (Luke 13:23)

“Lord, are there few that are saved?” (Luke 13:23) This exact question was posed to our Lord. Let's look at the responses he provided:

Luk 13:23-28 And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate: for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter and shall not be able. But when the master of the house shall be gone in and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without; and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us. And he answering, shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are. Then you shall begin to say: We have eaten and drunk in thy presence: and thou hast taught in our streets. And he shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; when you shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God: and you yourselves thrust out.

Mat 7:13-27 Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them. Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock. And every one that heareth these my words and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.

Mat 20:16b many are called but few are chosen.

Mat 22:11-14 And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.

Why did Christ teach these things? Did he want us to despair and think it hopeless that we can attain eternal life? Certainly not! Our Lord taught us that few choose God and cooperate with his grace in order to be saved for several reasons. First, Christ wanted to warn us to not reject his grace and go down the path of destruction. Second, He wanted to encourage us to rely on him, grow in his grace, and strive (literally "agonize") to enter the narrow gate (through self mortification) so that we do not end up like the many who try to enter but are unable. Lastly, our Lord wanted us to realize that we can and should bring his message of life to others and that by doing so we can in fact (in a secondary sense) save their souls from hell!

Imagine if we held to the modernist false belief that most or all people are eventually saved. What would be the purpose to share with others the gospel? Why would we bother if they're going to be saved anyway? But now that we know that only few are saved, the question is how can we do anything but pray, do penance, and share God's truth with them in hopes that they too will inherit eternal life.

In case the words of Christ are not convincing enough for anyone who has read up to this point and for those who wish to see more evidence of this universally held traditional teaching of the Catholic faith, here is some more evidence from the Scriptures, the early Church father's interpretations on Christ's words cited above, several doctors and saints of the Church and two of the Church's official catechisms, one universal catechism from the Council of Trent.

Baltimore Catechism
* 121. Q. Are all bound to belong to the Church?
A. All are bound to belong to the Church, and he who knows the Church to be the true Church and remains out of it, cannot be saved.
Anyone who knows the Catholic religion to be the true religion and will not embrace it cannot enter into Heaven. If one not a Catholic doubts whether the church to which he belongs is the true Church, he must settle his doubt, seek the true Church, and enter it; for if he continues to live in doubt, he becomes like the one who knows the true Church and is deterred by worldly considerations from entering it.
In like manner one who, doubting, fears to examine the religion he professes lest he should discover its falsity and be convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, cannot be saved.
Suppose, however, that there is a non-Catholic who firmly believes that the church to which he belongs is the true Church, and who has never -- even in the past -- had the slightest doubt of that fact -- what will become of him?
If he was validly baptized and never committed a mortal sin, he will be saved; because, believing himself a member of the true Church, he was doing all he could to serve God according to his knowledge and the dictates of his conscience. But if ever he committed a mortal sin, his salvation would be very much more difficult. A mortal sin once committed remains on the soul till it is forgiven. Now, how could his mortal sin be forgiven? Not in the Sacrament of Penance, for the Protestant does not go to confession; and if he does, his minister -- not being a true priest -- has no power to forgive sins. Does he know that without confession it requires an act of perfect contrition to blot out mortal sin, and can he easily make such an act? What we call contrition is often only imperfect contrition -- that is, sorrow for our sins because we fear their punishment in Hell or dread the loss of Heaven. If a Catholic -- with all the instruction he has received about how to make an act of perfect contrition and all the practice he has had in making such acts -- might find it difficult to make an act of perfect contrition after having committed a mortal sin, how much difficulty will not a Protestant have in making an act of perfect contrition, who does not know about this requirement and who has not been taught to make continued acts of perfect contrition all his life. It is to be feared either he would not know of this necessary means of regaining God's friendship, or he would be unable to elicit the necessary act of perfect contrition, and thus the mortal sin would remain upon his soul and he would die an enemy of God.
If, then, we found a Protestant who never committed a mortal sin after Baptism, and who never had the slightest doubt about the truth of his religion, that person would be saved; because, being baptized, he is a member of the Church, and being free from mortal sin he is a friend of God and could not in justice be condemned to Hell. Such a person would attend Mass and receive the Sacraments if he knew the Catholic Church to be the only true Church.
I am giving you an example, however, that is rarely found, except in the case of infants or very small children baptized in Protestant sects. All infants rightly baptized by anyone are really children of the Church, no matter what religion their parents may profess. Indeed, all persons who are baptized are children of the Church; but those among them who deny its teaching, reject its Sacraments, and refuse to submit to its lawful pastors, are rebellious children known as heretics.
I said I gave you an example that can scarcely be found, namely, of a person not a Catholic, who really never doubted the truth of his religion, and who, moreover, never committed during his whole life a mortal sin. There are so few such persons that we can practically say for all those who are not visibly members of the Catholic Church, believing its doctrines, receiving its Sacraments, and being governed by its visible head, our Holy Father, the Pope, salvation is an extremely difficult matter.
I do not speak here of pagans who have never heard of Our Lord or His holy religion, but of those outside the Church who claim to be good Christians without being members of the Catholic Church. http://www.catholicinformationcenteroninternet.org/Catechism/Introduction/bk4ls11.html#RTFToC9

Catechism of the Council of Trent:

Necessity Of Confession

Contrition, it is true, blots out sin; but who does not know that to effect this it must be so intense, so ardent, so vehement, as to bear a proportion to the magnitude of the crimes which it effaces? This is a degree of contrition which few reach; and hence, in this way, very few indeed could hope to obtain the pardon of their sins. It, therefore, became necessary that the most merciful Lord should provide by some easier means for the common salvation of men; and this He has done in His admirable wisdom, by giving to His Church the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:27-28 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence upon the earth with rigor and dispatch."

Romans 11:5 Even so then, at this present time also, there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace.

1Peter 4:17-19 For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear? As a result, those who suffer in accord with God's will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.

Luke 17:11-19 – Christ cleansed 10 lepers but only 1 came back to give him thanks and was saved.

Noah’s ark – Only 8 souls were saved by water, and the rest perished in the flood. The ark is the Church. Gen 6:11-14a, 17-22; 7:10-12, 16, 21-23; 8:10-11; 1 Pet 3:20-21

Lot – only Lot was righteous in the entire land. The entire country was wicked and the angels of God destroyed it for its wickedness (Gen 19; 2 Pet 2:6-9). Even Lot’s wife lost her life for disobeying the angels’ command and looking back (Gen 19:17, 26; Mar 13:16; Luk 9:62). Afterwards, Lot’s daughters committed the sin of incest with their father by getting him drunk (Gen 19:30-35).

There be very many come to the faith, yet but few arrive at the heavenly kingdom; many follow God in words, but shun Him in their lives. Whereof spring two things to be thought upon. The first, that none should presume ought concerning himself; for though he be called to the faith, he knows not whether he shall be chosen to the kingdom (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Catena Aurea, Commentary on Mat 20:16).

See also how the bad are the greatest number, and the few are those who are saved, for the fourth part of the ground is found to be saved (Theophylact, Catena Aurea, Commentary on Mar 4:1-20).

And therefore it is significantly said, When much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city. For not many but few there are who walk the strait road, and find the way which leads to life. Hence Matthew says, that He taught without the house by parables, but within the house explained the parable to His disciples (Origen, Catena Aurea, Commentary on Luke 8:4-15).

Since their eternal happiness, consisting in the vision of God, exceeds the common state of nature, and especially in so far as this is deprived of grace through the corruption of original sin, those who are saved are in the minority (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1, 23, 7).

St. Augustine, Sermon 61 on the New Testament: 1. The three measures of meal of which the Lord spoke, is the human race. Recollect the deluge; three only remained, from whom the rest were to be re-peopled. Noe had three sons, by them was repaired the human race. That holy woman who hid the leaven, is Wisdom. Lo, the whole world cries out in the Church of God, I know that the Lord is great. Yet doubtless there are but few who are saved. You remember a question which was lately set before us out of the Gospel, Lord, it was said, are there few that be saved? What said the Lord to this? He did not say, Not few, but many are they who are saved. He did not say this. But what said He, when He had heard, Are there few that be saved? Strive to enter by the strait gate. When you hear then, Are there few that be saved? the Lord confirmed what He heard. Through the strait gate but few can enter. In another place He says Himself, Strait and narrow is the way which leads unto life, and few there be that go thereby: but broad and spacious is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be which walk thereby. Why rejoice we in great numbers? Give ear to me, you few. I know that you are many, who hear me, yet but few of you hear to obey. I see the floor, I look for the corn. And hardly is the corn seen, when the floor is being threshed; but the time is coming, that it shall be winnowed. But few then are saved in comparison of the many that shall perish. For these same few will constitute in themselves a great mass. When the Winnower shall come with His fan in His Hand, He will cleanse His floor, and lay up the wheat into the garner; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire. Let not the chaff scoff at the wheat; in this He speaks truth, and deceives no one. Be then in yourselves among many a many, few though ye be in comparison of a certain many. So large a mass is to come out of this floor, as to fill the garner of heaven. For the Lord Christ would not contradict Himself, who has said, Many there are who enter in by the narrow gate, many who go to ruin through the wide gate; contradict Himself, who has in another place said, Many shall come from the East and West. Many then are the few; both few and many. Are the few one sort, and the many another? No. But the few are themselves the many; few in comparison of the lost, many in the society of the Angels.

Now our Lord in no wise contradicts Himself when He says, that there are few who enter in at the strait gate, and elsewhere, Many shall come from the east and the west; for there are few in comparison with those who are lost, many when united with the angels. Scarcely do they seem a grain when the threshing floor is swept, but so great a mass will come forth from this floor, that it will fill the granary of heaven (Augustine, Catena Aurea, Commentary on Luke 13-23-24).

St. Louis De Montfort, Love of Eternal Wisdom: 182.
The desire for divine Wisdom must indeed be a great grace from God because it is the reward for the faithful observance of his commandments. "Son, if you rightly desire wisdom, observe justice and God will give it to you. Reflect on what God requires of you and meditate continually on his commandments and he himself will give you insight, and your desire for wisdom will be granted." (Sir 1.26; 6.37) "For Wisdom will not enter into a deceitful soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sin." (Wis 1.4) This desire for Wisdom must be holy and sincere, and fostered by faithful adherence to the commandments of God. There are indeed an infinite number of fools and sluggards moved to be good by countless desires, or rather would-be desires, which, by not bringing them to renounce sin and do violence to themselves, are but spurious and deceitful desires which are fatal and lead to damnation. (Prov 21.25) The Holy Spirit, who is the teacher of true knowledge, shuns what is deceitful and withdraws himself from thoughts that are without understanding; iniquity banishes him from the soul. (Wis 1.5) http://www.ewtn.com/library/Montfort/LEW.HTM#One

Pope Saint Gregory the Great, 40 Gospel Homilies:
"Only the good are in heaven, and only the bad are in hell" (p. 344)
“You see, dearly beloved, how in nearly all the examples we have run through we recognize no good person who was not tested by the wickedness of the bad. If I may say so, the sword of our soul does not acquire a keen, sharp edge unless another’s wickedness has honed it” (p. 345-6).
“That there are many in the Church who are bad and few who are good should not frighten you. The ark in the floodwaters, which was a type or image of our Church, was spacious below and narrow above… Where it contained the wild animals it was wide, where it kept the human beings safe it was narrow. This was because the Church is spacious in respect to materialistic, narrow in respect to the spiritual. (quotes then from Mt 7:13-14*). (p. 346)
“The ark became narrow at the top, down to one cubit, because in the Church the holier the people are, the fewer they are. …Therefore we must bear with the bad even though they are more numerous, since on the threshing floor the grains of wheat we store in the barns are few, and the heaps of straw we burn in the fire are large.”
For many are called, but few are chosen. “What we hear, dearly beloved, is truly dreadful. All of us have been called, all of us have come to the marriage feast of the heavenly King. … Everyone should be anxious and fearful for himself the more ignorant he is of what is in store for him, because—this must be said often and not forgotten—Many are called, but few are chosen." (p. 351)

St. Alphonsus, On the Means Necessary for Salvation
11. Let us keep in mind the words of the Gospel: "How narrow is the gate and straight is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it" (Mat. 7:14). The way to Heaven is straight and narrow: they who wish to arrive at that place of bliss by walking in the paths of pleasure shall be disappointed; and therefore few reach it, because few are willing to use violence to themselves in resisting temptations. "The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away" (Matt. 11:12). In explaining this passage, a certain writer says, "Vi queritur, invaditur, occupatur." It must be sought for and obtained by violence: he who wishes to obtain it without inconvenience, or by leading a soft and irregular life, shall not acquire it – he shall be excluded from it.
12. To save their souls, some of the saints have retired into the cloister; some have confined themselves in a cave; others have embraced torments and death. "The violent bear it away." Some complain of their want of confidence in God; but they do not perceive that their lack of confidence arises from the weakness of their resolution to serve God. St. Teresa used to say, "Of irresolute souls the Devil has no fear." And the wise Man has declared, that "desires kill the slothful" (Prov. 21:25). Some would wish to be saved and to become saints, but never resolve to adopt the means of salvation, such as meditation, the frequentation of the sacraments, detachment from creatures; or, if they adopt these means, they soon give them up. In a word, they are satisfied with fruitless desires, and thus continue to live in enmity with God, or at least in tepidity, which, in the end, leads them to the loss of God. Thus in them are verified the words of the Holy Ghost, "desires kill the slothful."
13. If, then, we wish to save our souls, and to become saints, we must make a strong resolution, not only in general to give ourselves to God, but also in particular to adopt the proper means, and never to abandon them after having once taken them up. Hence we must never cease to pray to Jesus Christ, and to His holy Mother, for holy perseverance.

Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition:

- On Luke 13:24. Shall seek, &c. Shall desire to be saved; but for want of taking sufficient pains, and not being thoroughly in earnest, shall not attain to it. (Challoner) --- Our Lord answers here in the affirmative: viz. that the number of those who are saved, is very small, for a few only can enter by the narrow gate. Therefore does he say, according to St. Matthew, (Chap. vii.) Narrow is the way that leadeth to life, and few there are that enter therein. This does not contradict what is said in the 8th chapter of St. Matthew: That many shall come from the east, and sit down in the kingdom of God; for many indeed shall join the blessed company of the angels, but when considered with the number of the slain, they will appear but few. (St. Augustine, serm. xxxii. de Verb. Dei.) http://haydock1859.tripod.com/id77.html

- On Matthew 20:16. Few chosen: only such as have not despised their caller, but followed and believed him; for men believed not, but of their own free will. (St. Augustine, lib. i, ad Simplic. q. ii.) (Bristow) --- Hence the rejection of the Jews and of negligent Christians, and the conversion of strangers, who come and take their place, by a conversion both of faith and morals. On the part of God all are called. (Matthew xi. 28.) Come to me all, &c. In effect, many after their call, have attained to faith and justification; but few in comparison are elected to eternal glory, because the far greater part do not obey the call, but refuse to come, whilst many of those who come fall away again; and thus very few, in comparison with those that perish, will at the last day be selected for eternal glory. (Tirinus)

- On Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the narrow gate, &c. The doctrine of these two verses needs no commentary, but deserve serious attention. (Witham)
Ver. 14. Our Saviour in another place says, my yoke is sweet, and my burthen light. How comes it then that so few bear it, or how can we reconcile these texts together? The answer is at hand; for if soldiers and mariners esteem wounds, storms, and shipwreck, easy to be borne with, in hopes of temporal rewards, surely no one can complain that the duties of a Christian are difficult, when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (St. Chrysostom) --- It may also be added that God, by his heavenly consolations, makes them not only supportable, but even easy and pleasant. Thus the martyrs occasionally did not feel their torments through the sweet unction of divine love, and the excessive joy which God poured into their souls. (Haydock)

St. Faustina: One day, I saw two roads. One road was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the [few] people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings. (Diary 153)

Here is an alternate site has a compilation of many saints clearly explaining what Christ meant by “few saved”: http://www.gospa.org/pl/pages/evangelization/catholic_truth/few_saved.html?ra=1

-- “May the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things: that your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 5:23).

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