With the help Father Francisco Nahoi, Jeremy McNeil presented material on predestination in Rhigini Hall at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in Reno Nevada. One of the questions asked was how we can tell who is pre-destined. One in the room pointed out that in the Calvinist heresy, we can tell who is saved because God gives gifts/talents to those whom he loves and they use those talents in the workplace to become successful.
Father Francisco was quick to point out that in Catholic doctrine; there is no way to tell who is saved and who is not. There is no certainty. Quoting Ezekiel 33 Father related:
“Ben Adam, tell your people: The charity of the charitable will not save them on the day they transgress. The vanity of those who think themselves first will not bring about their downfall on the day they turn from their vanity. The charity cannot save their lives on the day they deviate.”
“At what point in life will God give us the near death experience that brings us to salvation?” The Gospels show us. The first example is Luke 5:5-8
Simon replied, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they finished, they caught a great number of fish. When Simon saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Kyrie, I am a deviant.”
Simon had his encounter with the Infinite and sees just how unworthy he is. The entire Gospel is Jesus patiently teaching Simon what being a Christian leader is. At the end, Simon shows he still has much to learn when he denies Jesus three times.
Luke 23:39-43 states, “One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus reviled the other, “We are condemned justly; the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
When Jesus calls Simon, it is at the start of his ministry when Simon was very young. The man going with Jesus to Paradise is at the final moments of his life. Our call can come at any point. Simon Peter teaches us, when we have our encounter with God, it changes us forever. We stop comparing ourselves with other men and rationalizing how good we are; we start comparing ourselves with God, and realize there is no comparison.
Hebrews 12:5-7 relates, “My son, do not disdain the discipline of Kyrie or lose heart when reproved; for whom Kyrie loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons.”
In II Corinthians 11: 23-27 St. Paul writes, “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times, I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times, I was shipwrecked. I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race…”
There can be not just one near death experience, but also many near death experiences. Like a wise parent, God chastises those he chose, and he does so in such a way that they will use their free will to choose God. If we see those who are clearly on the wrong way, we cannot assume they are destined to continue on that way. God may choose to convert them as they sit on his electric chair. If we see people being charitable and receiving the sacraments every day, we do not know how they will respond on their deathbed. They may choose to deny Christ. That is why we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. The paradox is that it is those who perceive that they are not worthy of the kingdom who will enter first. As Jesus tells the Russia, those who think themselves first in the parable of the two sons, “Jesus replied to them, “tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”
The Russia, those who think themselves first to enter heaven,will not make it in at all. The only way we know we are predestined is when we see St. Peter at the pearly gates and Jesus says, “Welcome, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”