Monday, May 3, 2010

If You Died Tonight...

So, now that I have brought up the question of salvation, I might as well explain why we Catholics think of it differently than Protestants.

I know you’ve heard the question: "If you died tonight, do you know with absolute certainty that you will go to Heaven?" Or, perhaps a more common one, "Are you saved?"

As Catholics, we do believe in an assurance of salvation, but not to the same infallible certitude that Protestants claim. We can, of course, look at our lives and, if we have not committed mortal sin, be confident in our salvation, as Christ promised us in the famous John 3:16 verse: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." Our hearts and our well-formed consciences give us confidence. "Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God" (1 John 3:19-21). (I emphasize a well-formed conscience; we have a duty to search for Truth and follow it; we cannot purposefully remain ignorant of it.) We do know, however, that we must obey Christ, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him." (John 3:36), and must endure until the end, "Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved." (Matt 24:11-13).

So we can, of course, have hope in our salvation if we merely look at our lives and see how we have loved God. St. Paul, at the end of his life declared: "I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance." It is important to note, however, that earlier in his life he did admit the possibility of falling away. "I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord." (1 Cor 4:4)

So the point here is: we need to closely examine our lives to have confidence in our salvation. De we have love for our neighbor? Are we spreading the Good News? (And I mean really spreading the Good News, doing our best to share it with all we meet.) Do we love Jesus and follow him? After all, he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If we know Jesus, then we know the Way to heaven.

As I said in my earlier post, really take a close look at your life and how you love God. We should examine our consciences each and every day. It’s a hard thing to do; I know I am guilty of trying to make excuses for the things I have done wrong, claim injustice, or blame others for why I have acted a certain way. I am always quick to judge others without first judging myself. Let’s judge ourselves often, form our consciences, and follow them so that one day at the end of our lives we can say “I have competed well; I have finished the race”.

So, when someone asks you if you are saved, the response you can give him is, “As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).” (from “Assurance of Salvation?” from the Catholic Answers website

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