Saturday, October 10, 2009

Many are called, few are chosen.


"It should not frighten you that in the Church the bad are many and the good few...
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'For many are called, but few are chosen.'
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Dearest brethren, we should fear with a great fear the words we have just now heard. All we here present, already called through faith, have come to the marriage of the Heavenly King. We believe and confess the mystery of His Incarnation, and we partake of the banquet of the Divine Word. But in a day to come the King of judgement will enter in among us.
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That we are called, we know; that we are chosen, we do not know. And so the more each one of us knows not whether he is chosen, so much the more do we need to humble ourselves in humility. There are, we know, those who do not even begin to do good; and some who do not remain constant in the good works they begin. Another is seen to pass almost his whole life in evil-doing, but close to the end he is drawn back from wickedness through tears of earnest repentance. Another seems to lead the life of one of the elect, and yet it happens that at the end of his life he will turn aside to the wickedness of heresy. Another begins well, and ends even better; while another, from his first years, gives himself to every evil, and growing ever worse than himself is destroyed in the midst of these very evils. In the measure therefore that each one knows not what is yet to come, in that measure should he live in fear and anxiety for himself before God: for, and let us say it over and over again, and let us never forget it: many are called, but few are chosen." - Saint Gregory the Great (Entire homily at Rorate Caeli.)
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Art:  Ladder of St. John Climacus - Source

7 comments:

  1. Terry,

    Do you think we should take the many called, few chosen point to mean that, numerically, those going to hell outnumber those who go to heaven? I have heard that interpretation dismissed, with the explanation that when they asked Jesus about it, He told them essentially: "strive to enter in (which is to say, don't be concerned with you, you have enough trouble trying to get yourself into heaven)".

    I'm sure not a few spiritual directors and such would turn their noses as St. Gregory's claim that we should live in fear and anxiety. That's practically spiritual heresy these days.

    I think, and not without good reason, that the Church has taken to preaching mercy--mercy, mercy, mercy. But, I fear that that the fear of hell and the severity of sin has been lost. Afterall, what sense does mercy make if there is nothing substantial to forgive?

    The anxiety and fear resonates with me naturally--I feel it and I sense good reason to be fearful. I am tempted to paralysis, but I know I shouldn't get that way. Still, I have trouble going full-tilt mercy for fear of falling into ignorance over my sins.

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  2. I think we should each worry about our own sin and not that of others. Rather, we should love them in spite of their sin for it is only God who can judge. In the end, we will find out whether we are chosen or not, but for not, what can we do other than to follow the path set before us by God earnestly and honestly, helping our brethren without worrying about whether they are among the chosen or not, among the good or the bad, for as you say, we don't know what someone will become in just a few hours.

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  3. Patrick - for you - always, always - confidence and love. Jesus will correct your faults if you fall into some sort of "ignorance of your sins", as you say. You must understand that there is a holy fear - a fear born of love. (Our Lady teaches us that.) It is like that of a son who fears offending a parent, or a lover fearing to disappoint his beloved. Perfect love casts out fear. The child, and the one who loves, when he realizes his failing or that he was the cause of some hurt to his parent/beloved - immediately casts himself into the arms of his beloved, expressing sorrow and love in an effort to repair the damage. In turn, the beloved is overwhelmed by the display of affection and responds with even more love because of the child's confidence and love.

    "Anxiety" seems to me to be an inapprpriate term - "concern" as in the case of "vigilance" seems to make more sense regarding the exhortation. I think the warning here is against presumption and self-righteousness, which leads to complacency and sloth. The good lesson here is that we need to be vigoilant for the whole of our lives.

    God bless you! Your concern or 'anxiety' is, in a manner of speaking, a proof of your love - but seek and strive after peace. Our Lord doesn't want us to be anxious.

    United in prayer - Terry

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  4. Elizabeth - you are right - we need to guard against our own presumption. Thanks.

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  5. Oh - and as far as many are called, few are chosen - I take that at face value - I think John of the Cross did as well. But Sunday's Gospel should increase our confidence and love: "For man it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."

    Even the worst bishop-child-molestor can be saved through the mercy of God.

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  6. Thank you, Terry. Very much.

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  7. Gods tender mercy... Nothing can be sweeter.

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