Tuesday, December 10, 2013


In the history of Christianity there have been individuals and groups who have accepted the notion of predestination. Most notably John Calvin and the churches that trace their roots to him. There are many variants on the idea from simply God chooses some as the elect for salvation to what is often referred to as double predestination, the idea that every person is predestined either for heaven or for hell. The Dutch who settled in South Africa carried with them a particularly pernicious form of this, believing that black Africans were all cursed because they were the descendent of the cursed son of Noah, Ham.

In its mildest form you hear people, often without thinking, say things like, "You can't escape fate" or "You can't escape your destiny." From the Catholic perspective both of those statements are wrong.

Our starting point is in today's gospel:

it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

So we start with the notion that God wills and offers salvation to all people. But what actually happens to us has nothing to do with fate or destiny. It is the result of our free will.

Yes, God created each of us with a purpose, and endowed us with gifts. But what we do with them rests squarely in our hands. I am free to seek to do the will of God, or stubbornly head down my own path.

The best news is that because God does not will that even one of us be lost, God is constantly ready to help, constantly ready to forgive. All we have to do is let him in.

Perhaps some people like the notion of fate or destiny because it absolves us of responsibility. But that isn't Catholic. We believe that the responsibility is ours right until we draw our last breath. We choose. If we are smart, we don't try to do it on our own, but always with the help of God's grace. Like the shepherd in today's gospel God is always ready to bring us back to the flock, to the pasture, to the right path.

Walk with your shepherd today.