Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thoughts on the Gospel Reading for Today

A few years ago, when I started thinking seriously about salvation, I was struck by how very Catholic my beliefs are. Like all Christians, I believe Christ's cruxifiction makes salvation possible.

I'm not a Universalist: I don't believe that just because Christ died for our sins that all of humanity, no matter our beliefs or behavior, will be granted eternal life. I'm not a Calvinist: I don't believe that only a select few are predestined to be saved and that the rest of us are out of luck no matter what we believe. I'm not an Evangelical Christian: I don't believe that once we accept Christ as our personal savior we have "perfect assurance" of our salvation.

I am Catholic because I believe Christ died for our sins and I believe we have to cooperate with His grace in order to have the possibility of eternal life.

Here is what Our Lord says about salvation in Sunday's reading from Saint Luke:  
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.

Mark Shea, a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism, explains my understanding of salvation better than I can: "Salvation is, then, a living relationship with God. It is created and sustained by grace, born in faith, grows in love and bears fruit in glory. It not only forgives us, it changes us by our cooperation with grace. It makes us, in the words of St. Peter, 'participants in the divine nature,' not just forgiven sinners. Heady stuff, to be sure. But nobody ever said God is safe, only good." I would not presume to say I've been saved. But I know Christ has redeemed me. Faith is not a one-time event; it's a journey,