Sail Down the Middle!

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”


In Greek mythology, there was a dangerous place in the sea near the world’s end with two terrible rocks called Scylla and Charybdis.  In avoiding the one, sailors usually smashed into the other.  The trick was to sail between them.  The devil, as C.S. Lewis says, is fond of sending his lies into the world in pairs like that too, so that in avoiding one lie, we might embrace the opposite lie.  In the past, Christians have embraced a lie that twists the meaning of today’s verse: namely, the notion that only those who are consciously aware of the name of Jesus and have “asked him into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior” are going to go to heaven.  Then, in reaction to this, other people have rejected the idea that Jesus matters for our salvation at all.  Such people say it’s compulsory heaven for everybody (except maybe Hitler and Stalin).  Between these twin lies– these theological Scylla and Charybdis–the Ship of Peter sails, teaching that the only way to God is Jesus (since he is God) but that it is not necessarily the case that each person Jesus saves be conscious that it is Jesus doing the saving.  Abraham, for instance, never heard Jesus’ name.  But he was faithful to the light Jesus gave him and followed it all the way to heaven.  Today, let us as Catholics be thankful for (and responsible to obey) the light Jesus has given us.  Let us neither pass judgement on our neighbor, nor ignore our responsibility to bear witness to Jesus.  That way, we can sail on through to heaven and bring a few folks with us as we go!

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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