The Catholic Church as essential for salvation and obtaining the Kingdom of Heaven (Part 2)

(Scriptural references are noted in parentheses in the text itself. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church are footnoted and found at the end of the text as “CCC.”)


Detailed comments

  1. In 1984 something happened to me that is so marvelous, so undeserved, and so challenging to communicate that I have difficulty writing about it in such a short space.[1] It concerns those subject matters that are ultimately the most important ones we will all have to face at one point or another in our lives. These matters concern religion, spirituality, and our final end.
  2. Without searching for anything other than self-gratification and while being a man of no consequence in the world, the Catholic Church was unexpectedly (Rom 10:20) and convincingly demonstrated to me, as it has also been revealed to millions throughout the centuries, in significant splendor as the Kingdom of God on earth.[2] This was no small revelation. And yet it came from completely outside my own mental or psychological capacities. I saw in one moment that this Church was specifically and historically instituted by Jesus Christ Himself and has been faithfully handed down to us through the ages in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the magisterial teachings of the Pope, who is the Vicar of Christ, and the Bishops in communion with him. Immediately after that moment, I knew that the Eucharist is the real and substantial Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Who is God Himself, being one with the Father and Holy Spirit. Within the space of about two seconds my life was forever altered away from a descent into paganism and hedonism toward a new found journey of joy and hope, and one based on the following proposition and corollaries:
  3. There is no other than the Catholic Church that was founded by Christ for the purpose of revealing the Kingdom of God – none (Matt 16:18; Eph 1:22-23 and 2:19-22). It is this Church that is the pillar and foundation of truth (I Tim 3:15), not “scripture alone” (II Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:1) nor one’s individual “spirituality” (II Tim 4:3-4). It is impossible that this Church would go into apostasy or error over the ages (Matt 16:18 and 28:20, John 14:16-17). We have Christ’s promise on that.
  4. This Kingdom is the very one of which Christ spoke when He said that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Matt 4:17). This Kingdom is not fully realized here on earth (Matt 13:24-30), but will be fully so at the end of time and with the glorious second coming of Christ (Rev 21:1-4).
  5. There is no other Lord, Savior, King, or rightful Kingdom. All other religions, sects, denominations, spiritualities, and beliefs are either partial to Catholic teaching in faith and morals or are patently false and deceptive.[3] Not all belief systems lead to the summit, in fact, only one does (John 14:6; Mark 16:15-16).[4]
  6. This is to be dogmatically proclaimed (Mark 16:15-16; Matt 28:20).[5] The resurrected Christ did not instruct His disciples to go to all the nations, telling each person to feel self-affirmed if they are just true to themselves, that the answer can be found within them if they simply seek their spiritual happy place. He said to “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” And He commanded more than just that we should love each other (this command often interpreted in the modern age to mean something like “helping people feel good about who they are,” leading to the hopelessly superficial conclusion that Christ willingly suffered a cruel martyrdom, was buried, and rose to resurrected life in order to drive home that “it’s nice to be nice”!).
  7. His commands reveal to us that, contrary to the creed of today’s creed-eschewing culture, it does matter very much what one believes if we are to truly love God and our neighbor. It matters Whom one follows if one is to find authentic Faith, Hope, and Love, i.e. the Kingdom. Since that “Whom” founded a Church, it therefore matters to which Church one belongs. It all matters very much indeed. To show us what we should believe, how to know it is really Him Whom we follow, and which Church can guarantee that we are doing so, Jesus gave us His own instructions and institutional foundations. For this purpose He instituted the Papacy (Matt 16:18-19; John 21:15), the priesthood, and the ritual of the Mass. “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:14-20; I Cor 11:23-26). Only Christ can show us the Father’s will and how to truly love Him and our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
  8. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
  9. That is Dogma. That is Christ’s very own Dogma. His is the Dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching” (Heb 13:9a). And He warned that the world would hate this Church and its Dogma as it hated Him (Matt 10:22; John15:18-25). Paul makes a striking and almost humorous reference to the necessary authority of the Church’s Dogma: “I am confident of you in the Lord that you will not take a different view, and that the one who is troubling you will bear the condemnation, whoever he may be. Would that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves!” (Gal 5:10, 12).
  10. This last point of authentic Dogma originating in the mutual love between us and Christ is of paramount importance. It is Dogma based on our freedom to love, not on oppression. It is Dogma that leads to valorous martyrdom rather than cowardly compromise (John 19:9-11). It runs magnificently contradictory to today’s moral relativism and “self-affirming” spirituality that is nothing but an imprisoning self-love. Most modern “feel good” spiritual leaders would have surely struck a deal with Pilate. Crucifixion is typically not on the list of spiritual “happy places.”
  11. This self-seeking, subjective spirituality has been created and formed by man in his own imagine ever since the prideful and rebellious Protestant Revolution with its ally against legitimate Church authority, the secular “Enlightenment,” and even more since the intrusion in the West of pantheistic Eastern New Age. The Jesus of the New Age guru is a “feel good” fabrication. The Jesus of the Protestant is the head with no suffering body so as to secure the glorious claim of “co-heir” (Rom 8:16-17; Eph 1:22-23; 1 Cor 6:2-3).
  12. Both the New Age and Protestantism share at their core an enmity for the Church. Both must be avoided in order to find the Kingdom. It is as important to understand what one must avoid as it is to know what one must pursue.
  13. Paul tells us that faith, not our own works, is the principle by which we are justified (Rom 3:27 and 9:32), but he also points out that this principle of faith requires an active, cooperative response from us which is more substantive than a mere verbal “OK” at the local Bible Church (Rom 2:5-8). John tells us point blank that one who “claims ‘I have known him’ without keeping his commandments, is a liar” (John 2:4). We must use our free will to actively cooperate with the grace of Christ to do God’s will (Matt 7:21; Rom 11:22 and 12:1-2). We are speaking here of sanctifying grace.[6] Though our will, or “work,” has nothing to do with the purely gratuitous gift of the first grace, or call, as Paul points out in Rom 9:10-16 and John also in John 1:12-13. God’s kindness in calling us is His invitation to repent (Rom 2:4). Many misinterpret that unmerited call with “assured salvation.” We must still repent. “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
  14. This repentant, obedient faith must be a living force that transforms our lives, forming Christ in us as a prerequisite for full justification (Gal 4:19).[7] “What does all this lead to? Just because we are not under the law but under grace, are we free to sin? By no means!” (Rom 6:15 also see Gal 5:19-21 and 1 Cor 6:9-10). It is a faith that leads us on a journey of life-changing justification by grace through the merits of Jesus Christ. “But now that you are freed from sin and have become slaves of God, your benefit is sanctification as you tend toward eternal life” (Rom 6:22). We “tend” toward eternal life as we are sanctified by grace; we do not arrive there at the altar call.
  15. To further emphasize this point, Paul reminds us that whereas “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as justice” (Rom 4:3b) and that “justice comes from faith, not works” (Rom 9:32), that same saving faith must be lived out as “obedience which leads to justice” (Rom 6:16b). “Through him we have been favored with apostleship, that we may spread his name and bring to obedient faith all the Gentiles” (Rom 1:5). “Consider the kindness and the severity of God – severity toward those who fell, kindness toward you, provided you remain in his kindness; if you do not, you too will be cut off” (Rom 11:22; also see 1 Cor 10:12). John would add, “This is the way to see who are God’s children, and who are the devil’s. No one whose actions are unholy belongs to God, nor anyone who fails to love his brother” (1 John 3:10). There is no duality in Paul and John’s meaning. This is not an argument about “faith versus works” as so many Protestant critics assume. It is about what “saving faith” really means. The Apostles are unequivocal. We must cooperate with God in our sanctification and obey Him in order for that faith to be a “saving faith.”[8] Jesus was just as unequivocal. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21).
  16. The Lord Himself summarizes justification in the parable of the silver pieces (Matt 25:14-30). Each man is given silver coins (unearned, unmerited graces of our call which are totally gratuitous and cannot be earned through “works of the law”). We note that the master is not an egalitarian. Based solely on the design of the Master, one receives five thousand, another two thousand, and a third one thousand. Yet, despite the differences in allocation, the master seems concerned with only one thing; that is, how did they do with their “investment” of grace? To the first two who made a fine return, the master says, “Well done! Since you are dependable in small matters I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come share in your master’s joy!” To the one who had the least and did nothing with it, the master is severe. Despite having freely handed the slave his silver, the master commands, “Throw this worthless servant into the darkness outside, where he can wail and grind his teeth.” We are, as an addendum, also reminded of our Lord’s warning that, “You are the salt of the earth. But what if the salt goes flat? How can you restore it to flavor? Then it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matt 5:13). Also read Matt 21:28-32, the parable of the two sons. “Words are not enough. Deeds are required.”[9]
  17. Paul echoes this sentiment in his writings. “We are truly his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance” (Eph 2:10). “He will repay everyman for what he has done” (our merits based solely on the merits, the free graces, of Jesus Christ) (Rom 2:6), “eternal life to those who strive for glory, honor, and immortality by patiently doing right” (the “return” on Christ’s merits) (Rom 2:7), but “wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness” (burying the grace of conversion and baptism to follow the spirit of the world) (Rom 2:8). Paul particularly warns believers against overconfidence in 1 Cor 10:1-12. We might also add, “What I do is discipline my own body and master it, for fear that after having preached to others I myself should be rejected”(1 Cor 9:27).
  18. It is poignant in this matter that Paul earlier in his letter tells the Corinthians that, “Circumcision (i.e., requirements of the “Law”) counts for nothing, and its lack makes no difference either. What matters is keeping God’s commandments” (1 Cor 7:19). Interestingly, he did not say that all that matters is that you “Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior to be assured of your salvation.” It is “keeping God’s commandments” that matters. Truly making Jesus your Lord and Savior demands the obedience of faith which requires our cooperation. “So that the just demands of the law might be fulfilled in us who live, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit” (Rom 8:4). These are not “works of the Law” but are works of sanctifying grace which are necessary for our salvation. “For if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Faith in the heart leads to justification, confession on the lips to salvation” (Rom 10:9-10). We are not saved by our own efforts to work the “Law,” but neither are we saved by mere intellectual assent or a mere verbal expression of “accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.” That is the first step in justification, yes. However, we are ultimately brought into the Kingdom by a profession of faith in Jesus Christ that leads to justification through His sanctifying graces given by Him in the sacraments of His Catholic Church.
  19. Therefore, our merits and good works matter very much for our sanctification (Eph 2:10) which is required to reach the Kingdom (Rom 6:22; 1 Cor 3:12-15)[10] but which cannot be founded in mere, legalistic “works of the Law.” Sanctification comes only through the purely gratuitous gift of grace flowing from Christ’s own merits on the Cross and institutionalized by Him in His Church for each generation. This is the word of Jesus Christ and of His Apostle Paul echoed in the teachings of the Church. We can merit nothing on our own;[11] however, “In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything” (Phil 4:13).
  20. What is the point of merit in God’s plan for us? It is that out of His infinite love for us He desires that we share in His glory (Rom 8:17)! And how do we merit? We merit through love empowered by the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. And what is love? It is sacrifice, suffering, even to our death (Rom 5:7-8) for love of Jesus. In other words, it is that combination of loving, sanctifying effort with Jesus’ transforming grace flowing from His redemptive work on the Cross. “I solemnly assure you, no slave is greater than his master; no messenger outranks the one who sent him” (John 13:16). “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and follow in my steps” (Mark (8:34). Where do those steps lead? They lead to Calvary, the pinnacle of Love. It is Love that drives us to obey; it is Love that is the driving force behind our merits, our striving, and our efforts to “obey” the faith! Love, authentic Love leading to eternal beatitude with God, and demonstrated by Christ on the Cross, is the goal of our efforts! Perhaps one of the greatest parables to demonstrate justifying faith through obedience in Love is that of the penitent woman in Luke 7:36-50. She was totally transformed through her loving repentance, and our Lord therefore blessed her total giving of self with, “Your faith has been your salvation. Now go in peace.”
  21. Without the “obedience of faith,” even if in just the small and ordinary affairs of daily living, we cannot find the heart of Love on Calvary nor the Kingdom it opens for us. It is the madness of our love for Jesus that drives the Catholic to “work”! We “work” not in the Law but in the “obedience of faith” that we might “imitate” our Lord by “carrying our cross” and “giving up our life” for Jesus Christ![12] It is a tragic error of the Protestant view of justification that diverts them after conversion to simply say, “I am saved. I need do no more.” (No more for salvation, that is. Yes, they might do more to receive blessings and a happier life, but they do not recognize this, as Catholics properly recognize it, as a privileged and necessary call for merit, grounded in Christ’s own redemptive merits, leading to glory as adopted sons and daughters and as “co-heirs.”) [13] It is likewise a tragic error of the New Age view that diverts them from acknowledging that they even need justification! What sadness! What treachery by the evil one to misguide and divert from the path of merit and glory those who love Jesus or otherwise seek the Kingdom!
  22. St. Thomas Aquinas puts it succinctly while most beautifully hinting at how it is that the New Testament speaks of both faith and works, “Therefore man is justified by faith, not as though man, by believing, were to merit justification, but that, he believes, whilst he is being justified; inasmuch as a movement of faith is required for the justification of the ungodly” (Summa Theologica; Question 114, Article 5, on Merit). And Paul might say, “Amen!”
  23. This is another reason why every person on earth needs the Church. Only the Church has the fully authentic doctrine on the justification required to enter the Kingdom. Only the Church has our Lord’s full seven sacraments established by Him that we might fully receive His sanctifying graces to then be justified according to Scripture.
  24. However, we are faced with a dilemma once we leave the superficial comfort of the man-made doctrine of “assured” salvation at the altar call or of the mere need to be “self-affirmed.” Yes, we can be completely assured of Christ’s promises. This is absolutely assured (Rom 11:29). But can we be so very sure about our own use of free will (Rom 11:22)? Can we be sure that we will not willfully separate ourselves from Christ to seek again the sinful pleasures of the world and therefore be “cut off” as Paul warns?[14] What happens when we stumble in the weakness of our fallen nature as we inevitably do? Christ instituted the sacrament of confession to heal us by grace and pick us up in His love again. Why confess to a priest, a mere man? We do it because Christ said to do it that way. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound” (John 20:23). He entrusted this power of absolution to the apostolic ministry of the Church (2 Cor 5:18-19; Matt 18:18).[15] This is another institutional command He told the apostles to go and preach to all the nations. Christ alone is the mediator with the Father, and He can authorize intercessors on His behalf if He so chooses. He did so choose. The “obedience of faith” demands that we obey.
  25. Thus, we see why Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, knew that we needed a Church with singular authority. The Church is not only helpful to our finding salvation, it is essential. That is why Jesus founded it, inaugurated it with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and continues to guide every generation with it. And this was the unified approach for the first one thousand years after Christ before the split with Orthodox Byzantium and for over one thousand five hundred years in the West before the revolution that resulted in a completely new set of doctrines called Protestantism.
  26. The only way is the way of obediently suffering with Christ on the Cross as one, unified, mystical body (Matt 10: 37-39; Phil 1:29; I Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22; Rom 8:17; Acts 14:22; and 20:23; John 17:20), relying in His sacraments through His authentic Church, as faithfully proclaimed by His Church for two thousand years. It is our willingness to suffer even to our death on the Cross in obedience to Christ’s own Church and through His sacraments as He commands, St. Paul confirms, and to which the martyrs testify that gives us the assurance of following His truth and avoiding the seductive, honey-throated sirens of the New Age or other like false spiritualities! It is on the Cross and through His sacraments (notably that of the Eucharist) where we are given the unfathomable dignity to participate with Christ as co-heirs! (Col 1:24) What a grace! What a mystery! “I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from his resurrection; likewise to know how to share in his sufferings by being formed into the pattern of his death. Thus do I hope that I may arrive at resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11). In summary, the Creed of the Roman Church today is the Creed of the early Church. Follow it to your death. Amen, so be it.
  27. Before His crucifixion and glorious resurrection, Christ would establish this Church through blessed Peter and the apostles (Matt 16: 18-19; John 20: 22-23) to be authoritatively handed down through the ages in an organized and institutional succession (Acts 1: 15-26; also read Paul’s letter to Timothy. For sources from the early Church Fathers, read Ignatius of Antioch, a personal disciple of John’s, regarding the Church’s immediate hierarchical development in accord with the teachings of the Apostles. It is this authoritative hierarchy that we have inherited today). This Church is a sacrament, His body and temple built on the foundation of the Apostles (Eph 2: 19-20) that He might be present with us visibly in our world today and most notably through the Holy and Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist which is really and substantially His very Body and Blood. Amen, so be it. It is this body of His that is being so maliciously scourged and crowned with thorns today by that same diabolical spirit that had Him crucified centuries ago. If you are persecuting the Catholic Church, you are persecuting Jesus Christ (Acts 9:4-5; I Cor 15:9).[16]

[1] For details of the author’s spiritual journey, refer to his books, “Journey to Christendom” and “Seek First the Kingdom” found through the author’s website at: http://www.joanandtherese.net.
[2] CCC, paragraph 541.
[3] CCC, paragraph 890.
[4] CCC, paragraph 846.
[5] CCC, paragraph 88.
[6] CCC paragraph, 1989.
[7] CCC, paragraph 2825.
[8] CCC paragraph 1989. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.”
[9] CCC, paragraph 546.
[10] CCC, paragraph 2092.
[11] CCC, paragraph 2016.
[12] CCC, paragraph 1709.
[13] CCC, paragraph 2009.
[14] CCC, paragraph 2016.
[15] CCC, paragraphs 1446-1448.
[16] CCC, paragraph 862.

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