3 thoughts on “The Image of the Shepherd

    • That’s a good question, Denise. The relationship between free will and providence is very mysterious. To answer your question, I’m thinking of chapter 13 of my most recent book on the Fundamentals of Catholicism. The chapter deals with the question of hell and universal salvation. I think it applies to the image of the good shepherd. Allow me to quote from it:

      “But how does this square with human freedom, the freedom to reject God’s advances for all eternity? Love is not love unless it is freely given, and God is Love; so will God allow us to reject Him for all eternity, especially given that love does not compel? A hasty response in the affirmative overlooks too much with respect to the genius of the divine love. As Edith Stein points out: “Human freedom cannot be broken by the divine, nor suppressed, but it can be outwitted, as it were. The descent of Grace into the human soul is a free act of divine love. And there are no limits to its expansion”.

      A mother does not stop searching for her lost son, and it is love that provides the light needed to “outwit” her son’s rebellion (Is 49, 15). As the mother, like the woman in the parable, approaches her lost son, a shadow is cast upon him because she does not walk in darkness–the shadow is, of course, the life of the Son, the life of grace, which can “worm its way in” so to speak. St. Edith Stein continues:

      “All merciful love can descend upon anyone. We believe that it does. And now, should there be souls who exclude themselves from it permanently? In principle, the possibility is not excluded. In fact, it can become infinitely unlikely, precisely through what prevenient Grace is able to accomplish in the soul. This Grace can only knock, and there are souls that open themselves at even this quiet call. Others let it go unheeded. But then this Grace can worm its way into these souls, and more and more expand itself in them. The greater the space that it occupies in such an illegitimate way, the more unlikely it will be that the soul closes itself off. It already sees the world now in the light of Grace…The more ground that Grace wins from that which occupied it before, the more ground it deprives from the free acts directed against it. And, in principle, there are no limits to this displacement. When all the impulses against the spirit of light are displaced from the soul, then a free decision against it [the spirit of light] becomes infinitely unlikely. For this reason, the belief in the boundlessness of God’s love and Grace, as well as the hope for universal salvation, are justified…”

      This is an interesting and mysterious paradox: that grace slowly and gradually deprives a soul of the ground for the free acts directed against it, and yet such displacement in fact marks an increase in freedom, for “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Co 3, 17). Those in darkness are slaves to sin, and they really do not understand the full implications of the choices they make. Indeed, Christ himself said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23, 34), and for the most part, we don’t know what we are doing, especially when our choices plunge us more and more deeply into darkness.” https://www.amazon.ca/Some-Fundamentals-Catholicism-Douglas-McManaman/dp/1999108698/ref=sr_1_4?crid=3HAXI6HDLMFSK&keywords=douglas+mcmanaman&qid=1682951295&sprefix=douglas+mcmanaman%2Caps%2C88&sr=8-4


      • Thank you for this thought filled response! There is a lot to noodle over.
        As always appreciate your writings


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