The Father William Most Collection
Teacher, if God knows where I am going, I cannot help going!
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
Such questions are not rare in high school or at other times. They reflect a real concern about predestination. Teachers often say: The fact God knows does not force or cause it. I know the train will leave at 10:15 AM, but I am not causing it.
Such a reply sometimes satisfies. But there is much more to say. If we work carefully and soundly we will not only find the real answer, but even make the questioner feel warm at heart.
We will start out with a few facts we are certain about, and which are not difficult. After we gather them up, we will be surprised at how the answer as it were leaps out toward us.
First: God wants all of us to be saved. He said this clearly and plainly in 1 Tim 2.4: "God wills all men to be saved."
Does He mean it? It is almost blasphemous even to ask—for when God says He wants us to be saved, He is really saying that He loves us. To deny His love would be horrendous, an insult to Him.
To grasp this we need to know what love us: To love is to will good to another, for the other's sake. If we willed good, but no for the other's sake sake, that would be using him, not loving him. So I could will that a bottle of wine keep well ,but for my sake, not for the wine..
Sadly, there have even been prominent theologians who did not see the connection, that to will our salvation is to love us.
How much does He will that? To open the way for it He went so far as not to spare His only Son, but to send Him to the horrible death of the cross. So the Father accepted as it were a price for all grace, that is infinite, for that is what His Son's blood is worth. Thus the Father has bound Himself to make available to me an infinite, limitless supply of grace.. He did this not just for humans in a block, but for each one individually. St. Paul wrote (Gal.2.20) "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." Vatican II reassures us: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle: the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me"(Church in Modern World § 22)
This infinite love shows itself in a triple way. First the redemption is a sacrifice. In a sacrifice the external sign would be worthless without the interior, which was and is obedience, obedience to the Father in spite of such pain, to please Him, to benefit us. The redemption is also a new covenant. At Sinai He promised benefits if they would obey. In the new covenant, Jesus obeyed even to death on the cross. Finally, the Holiness of God wants right order restored if a sinner takes what he has no right to take. It can be rectified if the sinner gives up something to which he would have had a right. Jesus emptied Himself, as St. Paul told the Philippians, becoming obedient ever to death. He gave up the honor, the adoration to which He had a right as God, and accepted human conditions, the worst kind of human things, in obedience to the Father. He gave up more than all sinners had taken away.
So His love for the Father and for us is shown in this triple way. Love called for obedience, and in practice was the same thing as obedience.
But now something that will astound most Catholics. In Gethsemani Jesus asked that the chalice pass if it be the Father's will. We know it did not pass. But yet many think if it had passed we would not be redeemed. Not so. Even the least act of God-made man was infinite in merit, infinite in satisfaction. So The cross was not necessary, nor the hard life before it. He could have been born in a palace, and then very soon ascended without dying. We would have still had an infinite redemption! Why do more? It was the will of the Father to make all as rich as possible for objective goodness, and for richer than infinite claims to grace for us. It would have been infinite without the cross, but the superabundance of the love of the Father, and of the obedient Son,wanted to go to the outermost limit of obedience/love.
St. Paul wrote: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me" - not just for humanity in a block as it were. He offered all for all men individually.
What do I have going for me then? An infinite claim to all forgiveness and grace. How could anyone with that possibly be lost?
Suppose a man said to himself: I can afford a long time of sinning - then pull up just in time. But it would not work. At the end of the spree there would be no repentance - that means looking back on what I have done and honestly saying: I see it was all wrong. I should not have done it. I wish I had not.—But no, the man on the spree would not have such a real repentance. Furthermore, a long spell of sin makes one blind or hardened. Then even if God sends and offers grace, the man cannot take it in - he has closed himself.
But short of such a foolish thing, we can see God does not let anyone down, He has bound Himself to offer grace without any limit, except the rejecting the man does..
Now we see the truth - God does want us to be saved, He has done and continues to do everything. Only we ourselves could cause our loss. He gives us this treasury bought at a price - the price of the death Christ has paid for me - I would be outside the number of the predestined, only if I f rejected His grace so persistently that I would be throwing away the only thing that could have saved me.
We can see how it is now: He looks ahead to see who resists His grace not only gravely but also persistently - so persistently that they cannot be saved -- they throw away persistently the only thing that could save them. Then with regrets God decrees to let them go. But all others, He decrees to bring to their Father's house. For grace makes us children of the Father, even sharing in His nature, as the second Epistle of St. Peter tells us (2 Pet 1.4). In His plan, that first grace is as it were a ticket to heaven. We did not have to earn it -- His love gave it to us if only we did not reject it. Yet even though we did not have to earn it, we need to avoid throwing it away persistently, since then we would be without the only thing that could save us.
So there are three stages as it were: in God's planning - first , He most earnestly wants all to be saved, and went so far as sending His only Son to a horrid death to make that way open. Next, He looks ahead , hoping no one will throw way His grace persistently enough to rule out salvation: With great regrets He decrees to let those souls go on to ruin. Finally, all who have not been dropped in this second stage are positively predestined to a place in our Father's house, even holding in our hands a ticket, grace. Grace makes us His children - children as such do have a claim to be in their Father's house. He gladly puts the seal on that, predestines to heaven.
But there is even more. He is infinite warmth, infinite love. No Mother has a love comparable to His. But since we call Him Father, He gives us a spiritual Mother, Mary., the Mother of His only Begotten Son, given to us at the food of the cross.. .This care shows splendidly in what Pope Pius XI wrote so wonderfully (Explorata res, Feb 2,1923) :" Nor would he incur eternal death, whom the most Blessed Virgin assists, especially at his last hour. This view of the Doctors of the Church, in harmony with the beliefs of the Christian people, and supported by the experience of all times, depends especially on this reason, the fact that the Sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of the Redemption with Jesus Christ." This is of magnificent value since, in spite of the infinite generosity of our Father, we might still ask ourselves: But I could throw away, could reject His grace. So in His unending kindnesss He has provided a remedy even for such a possibility, if only we use it. The Pope gives a most solid reason for his teaching: The fact that our Lady shared in redeeming us along with her Divine Son. She literally shared in earning every grace—hence she has only to ask, and all will be given. PopeBenedict XV called her "omnipotentia supplex - suppliant omnipotence" All that God can do by His own inherent power, she can obtain by merely asking for it.
Sadly not too many Catholics understand her role in redeeming us. The redemption was a sacrifice, the essential value of which as we saw earlier came from obedience. She, at unimaginable cost to herself, joined in that obedience. For she was asked by the Father to positively will that He die, die then, die so horribly. Any soul faithful to God must always will positively whatever He positively wills. This is clear from Vatican II, LG § 61 ":...in suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior [redemption] in an altogether singular way ,by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls." Pope John Paul II in his Redemptoris Mater deepened the nature of her obedience to the will of the Father.
Nor is the text of Pius XI just the teaching of one Pope. Benedict XV (Inter Sodalicia, March 22,1918) agreed: "There is a most constant view among the faithful, proved by long experience, that whoever employs the same Virgin as Patron, will not perish forever." Pius XII, in his great Mediator Dei, of Nov 20,1947 called devotion to her "a sign of predestination." Now it is a basic principle in theology that if anything is taught repeatedly on the ordinary level (below solemn definitions) it is infallible.