Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC | January 18, 2018
For several days during the second week of the Christmas season, the Responsorial Psalm comes from Psalm 98, bearing the refrain, “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.”
I recently presided at Mass in the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and as we prayed that refrain, it occurred to me that perhaps the psalmist did not intend “the ends of the earth” to be something physical or geographical. The end of the earth is not Shipshewana. The end of the earth is not at Tierra del Fuego.
The saving power of God — or, to say it another way, the mercy of God — has been extended to each and every person in the world: to those whom we love and to those whom we do not love. The mercy of God has been extended to that coworker whom we wish would get a new job in a faraway country where there are only one-way flights. It has been extended to that priest we wish would become a missionary in Indonesia. And yes, it’s even been extended to our mother-in-law. The saving power of God is alive and moving in every person who has ever lived, is living, or will ever live, because God cannot be absent from any person. There is no person outside the saving power of God, no one outside the mercy of God.
In his book Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?, the Swiss Roman Catholic priest and theologian Hans urs Von Balthasar writes, “If someone asks us, ‘Will all men be saved?’, we answer in line with the Gospel: I do not know. I have no certainty whatsoever. This means as well that I have no certainty whatsoever that all men will not be saved. The whole of Scripture is full of a proclamation of a salvation that binds all men by a Redeemer who gathers together and reconciles the whole universe. That is quite sufficient to enable us to hope for the salvation of all men without thereby coming into contradiction with the Word of God.”