CATHOLIC Q&A WITH FR. MIKE: "Do Catholics feel they have to work out their Salvation?"
By Fr. Mike Manning, SVD
Catholics believe that salvation is a free gift from God. When Jesus died and rose He paid the price for our sins. That salvation is a wonderful gift. I receive that gift by an act of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This gift is not something that I can earn. It's outright free.
But now the question arises, "Do I have to do anything once I have that gift?" Well, of course. The gift from the Lord requires a response. We must love and worship the Lord. We must care for His people. The parable in Matthew 25 speaks of works of love for the poor as a key to attaining salvation.
Back in the 1500's Luther got very upset with the Roman Church over the issue of Indulgences. Catholic leaders were selling indulgences that gave the buyer a guarantee that he or those for whom he bought the indulgences, living and dead, would be freed from the punishment their sins had incurred. In many ways
Luther was correct to object to the practice of selling indulgences as it was carried out in his time. Indulgences in themselves are really quite beautiful. They come from the store of loving acts of Christ and members of His Body. For example, if someone you love is suffering right now with arthritis or cancer, for a Christian, that suffering is not wasted or meaningless. It is united with the sufferings of Christ in a way that transcends time. That suffering can now be applied to help a struggling person perhaps on the other side of the planet. The help comes in the form of grace.
One of the clearest explanations of this power of human suffering comes from the words of St. Paul to the Colossians 1.24: "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church." Indulgences speak of the power of our suffering being united to the suffering of Christ. The Father unites our suffering with those of Christ and brings the grace of salvation to people around our world today. Indulgences speak of the value that God places in our suffering. What a beautiful gift.
The granting of indulgences sometimes lost its deep spiritual significance and was merely a means of manipulation and a way of gaining money. The impression for some was that the Church was saying that salvation could be bought or worked out by prayer or mere human effort. We can never do anything that would merit our salvation. Still, given this gift, we must strive with all our power to be as worthy of this love by loving God and our neighbor as we love ourselves.
CLICK HERE to post a comment or just to see what others are saying.