The Greek hero Odysseus had to pass through the double threat of Scylla and Charybdis. The two mythical creatures stood for very real dangers in the Straits of Messina between the toe of Italy and the Island of Sicily. Scylla represented the rocky coast – if a captain tacked too close his ship would go aground and several lives could be lost. However, farther from shore was a much greater danger – Charybdis, the whirlpool that could consume an entire ship.
In our spiritual lives we face similar threats. Over-rigidity is a Scylla, which can cause us to miss great opportunities. I remember once being so set on a certain task I did not respond to an emergency. I kicked myself for several days. However, I must admit more easily being drawn into the Charybdis of indolence, the lack of clear goals.
Regarding correct teaching about eternal salvation we must also steer between twin dangers. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in the central issue of today’s readings. Jesus says:
“I give them (my sheep) eternal life and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” (Jn 10:28)
A verse such as this has led some to claim an assurance of salvation that we Catholics would call presumption. When combined with other verses, as in today’s first readings, it can lead to a full-blown doctrine of predestination:
“All who were destined for eternal life came to believe.” (Acts 13: 48)
Calvin, one of the towering minds of Christianity, took such statements to a logical, but horrible conclusion. He taught double pre-destination: some to eternal life, but all others to eternal condemnation. Calvin’s logic is like a rock. Even as we move near it, we must not come too close for fear of shipwrecking the notion of human freedom.
Most of us are a long way from the rigidity of Calvinism. However, we face a much greater threat – the Charybdis of universalism, the doctrine that all men will be saved. The patristic giant, Origen, using certain verses from St. Paul (e.g. I Cor 15:28), taught Apocatastasis, a final recapitulation when even the devil would be saved. The Catholic Church eventually condemned “origenism” because it went against Jesus’ teaching about the seriousness of this life and the real possibility of eternal loss (hell). Moreover, universalism readily turns into a whirlpool where good and evil are mixed together, becoming indistinguishable.
How do we steer a course between the Scylla of pre-destination and the Charybdis of universalism? Fortunately we have a navigation chart. It is called the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On one hand it tells us to avoid presumption. To not presume one can have forgiveness without conversion nor that one can save himself without help from on high. (#2092) At the same time it cautions against the great sin of despair – to cease hoping for personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for forgiveness of sin. As the Catechism states, “Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to his justice – for the Lord is faithful to his promises – and to his mercy.” (#2091)
If we remain close to Jesus, we can have a profound (but not reckless) assurance: “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”
From Archives (Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
My bulletin column (April 25, 2010)
St. Mary of the Valley Album
Bulletin (Auction results, prayers for immigration reform, Mass for John Carr)
Archbishop Brunett's Letter to The Seattle Times:
The word "conscience" does not even appear in your editorial, which raises the question of whether you understand the issue you are editorializing. Of equal concern is the apparent religious bigotry involved in the selection and placement of the cartoon.
Archbishop Burke explains why he resigned as Chariman of the board of Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation
Bill Donohue on The Media Reaction in St. Louis
Bulletin (Confirmation, Da Vinci Code Presentation, Room Names)
By Mark Shea - The Shadow Tradition:
Now and then, as in a lightning flash, we see evil in almost chemical purity: in an airliner smashing into the World Trade Center, in a heap of bodies stacked like cordwood at Dachau, in a child dismembered on an abortionist's table. But typically, evil knows how to duck behind the legitimate moral ambiguities of life. And so the abortionist appeals to the Tradition's respect for choice, the Jihadist to the need for "tolerance" of his viewpoint, and the Jew-hater to need to honor "Tradition." Attempts to oppose the evil can then quickly be cast as attempts to oppose the good thing the evil hides behind.
New - If You Really Loved Me (100 Questions on Dating, Relationships and Sexual Purity) by Jason Evert
Fidelity to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Dolan
Who Said It? "It’s a tragic day in the lives of everybody when abortion is looked on as an alternative to birth control or as an alternative to having a child. I think that’s wrong. It should be the very last thing if it has to be anything, and I say that not just because I’m opposed to abortion but because I think that’s common sense. … I think the question of abortion is one that should be left for the states to decide."
What Vatican II Did and Didn't Teach Regarding Conscience
Cardinal Arinze on Kerry
From an Opponent of Iraq War: Is It Wrong for Catholic to Vote for Kerry?
Clarification regarding Canon 915 ("Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion")
Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction? by Lavinia Spirito:
Novelists are free to invent whatever they want in their stories. But when they make claims of “scholarship” pertaining to real life disciplines like history, architecture and philosophy, they should bear a closer scrutiny. While there is much more to say, let’s concentrate on specific inaccuracies contained in the The Da Vinci Code.
Kathryn Jean Lopez on March for Women's Lives
And from Annie at After Abortion
Youth Banner at "March for Women's Lives": We Survived Roe...Roe Will Not Survive Us
Testimony from Seminarian at March
Dave Morrison re: Silent No More
New York Time's coverage of The Passion: It is not my intent here to indulge in Times-bashing. I spent eight very happy years on the Times staff...
Bulletin (Hail Holy Queen, Vocations, Annual Appeal)
Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru