“Ask a Priest: So Many Lost Souls – Where Is Jesus’ Victory?”

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Q: I often feel a sense of unease when I come across such phrases in the Gospel as “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” or “The gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.” If Jesus through his death and resurrection has won a victory over sin, death and Satan, then how am I to understand this victory if, as the Gospel and the Church Fathers suggest, very many, probably the majority of humanity, will be damned? Surely, the high number of damned souls would be Satan’s victory and consolation. Although I am also against abortion because it is murder, I sometimes wonder whether giving birth to a child is just adding to the sum total of human wickedness and potential demon-fodder. Unless my thinking is mistaken, how am I to understand the Gospel as good news? – P.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A. First, the Church has never officially declared what percentage of humanity would be lost. It is a speculative question, and we won’t know the answer until the last judgment.

We should always have hope for the salvation of souls. There is no reason to abandon praying for souls of the living or dead. Prayers make a difference!

Second, it is good to remember bringing children into the world is a good thing. God’s first command to the first couple was to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The idea that somehow a new life is adding to the misery in the world is badly mistaken. I dare say that you might have been influenced a lot by the world’s viewpoint here. Many people who support abortion and contraception try to justify them on the grounds that limiting the number of people in the world is good. That isn’t a Christian viewpoint. God wanted the first couple to multiply and to “fill the earth” (also Genesis 1:28). Suffice it to say that each person’s very existence is a sign of God’s glory. It isn’t for us to judge that new lives shouldn’t be raised up in the world.

Third, God gives everyone enough grace to reach heaven — if the person does his part. No one ends up lost but for his choice.

Fourth, as for the world being a nasty place: It has been a mess since the sin of the first humans. That sin brought original sin into the equation. The result is that we inherit a damaged human nature which is prone to doing bad things. The devil is strong — but Jesus is much stronger. Our faith teaches us that. The world is good; sin brings evil. But that isn’t God’s fault.

What is needed here is a spirit of faith and confidence in God’s providence. This is the moment when the world needs Christian witnesses. This is when the world needs to see the Gospel come alive in the lives of Christians.

This is the moment when we need to bring the light of Christ into a darkened realm. Mother Teresa did that, and she helped change the lives of millions. Such is the grace of God that can transform hearts.

So it might be good to forget the world thinks. Look to the example of Mother Teresa and other saints. They didn’t buy into the pessimism of the world. Rather, they built their lives on Christ. One way to imitate the saints is to stay close to prayer and the sacraments, and do what you can to help those around you.

Be bold about your Christianity. The world needs to see such boldness in you. (Perhaps the online retreat about discouragement might be helpful, A Cure for Discouragement.

I will pray for you!

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