Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Homily
Fr. Paul Ward

Sat. & Sun., May 16 & 17, 2015
Ascension of the Lord

Sacred Heart Catholic Church
 

The Necessity of the Catholic Faith for Salvation

1.    

   Today the Church celebrates liturgically the day when the Lord, 40 days after his resurrection from the dead, ascended in his living human body to the right hand of the Father. In this way, he mercifully glorified the human race, by taking our nature to that place of glory, and in the act of doing so, blessed us and sent us forth on the mission of spreading the gospel for the salvation of souls.

   Before entering more into this topic, however, a few notes about parish life. [12n Span.: May Crowning.] First, a reminder that our academic year for our catechism students is drawing to a close. Next Monday morning, May 25th, as each year, there will be honors for deceased veterans in our parish cemetery. That same weekend, our Latino parishioners are bringing the statue of Our Lady of the Presentation from one of their parishes of origin in Mexico; this is becoming an annual tradition, and an opportunity to grow in Marian devotion. She will arrive on time for the 12n Mass, and depart on the afternoon of the next day, Monday, Memorial Day proper. As our parish feast of the Sacred Heart approaches, I am hoping many volunteer. There will be 40 hours of Eucharistic adoration from Tuesday until Friday, and then the Friday parish dinner on the very day of the feast, which will be June 12. The next day, Saturday, June 13, is the mandatory retreat for the confirmation students; Confirmation will be celebrated by Bishop Cepeda the next weekend, on Sunday, June 21, at the 12n Mass. And please do not forget May 31, with the graduation Mass in the morning put on this year by our ushers, and then Fr. Matt’s 50th anniversary celebration in the afternoon at the Knights of Columbus hall. These and many other things are afoot in our little parish; please participate in as much as you can, to get all the graces God may wish to offer you.

   Recently, I had a conversation with a gentleman who comes to Church here, and it rotated around the topic about if and why the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation. The answer is a resounding YES, for there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church. Yet there is a correct and incorrect way of understanding this statement, the incorrect way having been formally condemned by the Church as heretical. I am thinking of this because of the words the Lord said before he ascended, reported in the Gospel of Mark, namely, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (cf. Mk 16:15-20). Our Lord clearly does not say all men are saved, and he does not say “everybody’s welcome.” Only in hell is everybody welcome; in heaven there are standards. “Saved, condemned”: words of such magnitude and urgency that when we hear the Lord say them, we should sit up straight and pay serious attention.

   The Church proclaims in the Creed, “For us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.” He did not say, “for only some men.” We may therefore conclude logically that salvation is offered to each person, but each person must exercise their freedom in embracing or rejecting it. There is no other alternative: one is either saved in heaven or condemned in hell. There is such a thing as limbo, but that topic will lead us far afield, and we’ll have to leave that for another day.

   Furthermore, we know that all men are born in original sin. This is the natural state of man, and is incapable of itself of attaining eternal beatitude. But God offers grace to man, so that we can rise above the natural state to a supernatural state, a state of grace. This state is attained by baptism, lost again by mortal sin, and restored to a baptized person through the sacrament of reconciliation. The Church understands that the transformation of Baptism ordinarily is done with water and certain words, but has recognized that when one should die in certain situations without the saving waters, that the effects of baptism are extended to them, by which they can be saved. This is when one is a catechumen but dies before baptism, or when one dies as a martyr bearing witness to Christ while not having been baptized; the first case is the case of baptism by desire, the second, baptism by fire. This being true, the Church also recognizes what it states in the Catechism, namely: “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity” (CCC 1260). This is why Christ speaks as he does in Mk 15: he says they will be condemned only if they hear the word of God first and then reject it; he does not condemn them if they never heard it.

   This leads to a much more contemporary heresy, by which some say, “If that’s the case, then it’s better to leave men in ignorance.” A certain Pelagian theologian named Karl Rahner even had a preposterous notion of a sort of natural Christian, and that everyone was really Christian and didn’t know it, and, mistaking sanctifying “grace” for “being,” he dissolved away Christianity into secularism and materialism. Some today, with that mentality, even assert heretically that one does not need Christ or the Catholic Church to be saved; that the Jew is saved by Moses, the Muslim by Mohammed and the Protestant by living their Protestantism to the max.

   Now if it is true that some can be saved who do not belong to the visible structure of the Catholic Church in this world, we need to point out two things. First, that if they do become saved, fulfilling the conditions described in the Catechism passage just quoted, they are saved through Jesus Christ, the only mediator, and the Catholic Church, his only mystical body, even if in this life they were completely oblivious to the fact. Moses, Mohammed, Martin Luther and John Calvin do not provide salvation; as St. Peter says, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

   The second thing to point out is that without the Catholic Church, it is so improbable as to seem almost impossible for men to seek the will of God and unfailingly live according to their understanding of it. Let us, for example, look at our own selves who are Catholics: we have the Eucharist, we have Mary, we have all seven sacraments, we have the Bible and a correct version of it unlike the Protestant Churches, we have Apostolic Tradition, we have the seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, we have devotions such as the Way of the Cross and the Rosary, we have sacramentals such as holy water, holy salt and scapulars, we stand apart for our perfect ideal of marriage (one man, one woman, indissolubility, permanence, with prohibitions against sins against chastity, abortion and contraception); we have a Magisterium to guide us in all things touching our faith and morals. These and so much more. The results? We’re always going to confession, because of our great weakness. If you, who have all these things, still fall frequently in to sin, and not rarely into mortal sin, how is it that the poor guy in the back hills of Mongolia who never even heard of Jesus Christ is going to do any better than you?

   This is why we must spread the faith, first by teaching, then by example. This is why it is not OK to abandon souls in ignorance. This is why we do not declare any living man as one certainly on his way to hell, for maybe he too can be saved; but we are not naïve about the brokenness of human nature, and so we wish him and everyone to enjoy all the means of salvation in the Catholic Church.

   For all the means of salvation were entrusted to the Catholic Church, and only to her. In her we find all the means of salvation, without any error, lacking nothing, having everything, and incredibly efficacious in assisting poor sinners in finding their way to heaven.

   May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for us and the whole Church today, that we may receive such a grace, to live in grace, to die in grace, and even to live and die for that Catholic Church which is the one bride of Christ, the means of holiness, the barque of salvation, the only absolutely secure way to attain eternal life. Amen.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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