Assurance of Salvation: When we die, our souls will spend eternity somewhere. I know for me, I want to spend eternity with God. So, is our ticket to heaven completely punched once we become a Christian? Well, it all depends on who you talk to. It’s not as simple as a “yes” or “no” answer, or is it? Let’s take a look at what some Christian faith traditions believe and then look at what the Catholic Church teaches on this most important subject, and why she believes what she does.
Many of us have been, or know someone who has been asked the question, “Have you been saved?” That question seems to imply that by doing something on a one time basis (excepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior), that I cannot lose or forfeit my salvation. The person who would ask you and me that question might reasonably think that, after all, didn’t Jesus say in John 10:28, “No one can take my sheep out of my hand?” For some Christians, when they say that they are “saved,” they usually mean that they have done what St. Paul asks us to do in Romans: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). That sounds like a good idea to me. Once I become a Christian, it doesn’t matter what I do the rest of my life, no matter how many sins I commit, no matter how serious they may be, my ticket to heaven has been automatically punched!
Some Christians might understand justification to mean that Jesus’ blood does not really cleanse our entire being, but merely covers us so that we will be acceptable to God the Father on Judgement Day. This way of thinking is discribed by Martin Luthur when he said that Christians are like “dunghills covered with snow.” Luther believed that I as a Christian, could never be spiritually pure, but that I am externally “coated” with the righteousness of Jesus Christ—which would make me “passable” before the Father on Judgement Day.
The Catholic understanding of justification holds that being Baptized into Christ cleanses the “entire person,” both internally and externally, from the sins that I have at that present moment (cf. Acts2:38) and makes me a “new creation” (cf. Cor. 5:17). After I am “clothed with Christ” through the waters of Baptism (cf. Gal 3:27-29), I then become a full-fledged member of God’s family.
Analogy: After being born into my human family, I receive my family name. When I become old enough, my parents give me the free will to go out and “play” in the neighborhood. After I get all “dirty” and “muddy” from playing in the neighborhood, I come home each day and have to take a good bath. Once I get cleaned up, I become a sweet-smelling member of my family. If I don’t get cleaned up, but rather, put on a nice clean set of clothes instead, and go to the supper table, my parent’s noses would tell them right away that I needed a good scrubbing and they would send me to the bathroom.
Well, after my baptismal birth into my heavenly family (cf. John 3:1-5, 22), God the Father gives me the free will to play in the “playground” of the world. I will then “muddy” myself spiritually when I commit sins throughout my life. As a Catholic Christian, the Sacraments are vehicles of grace (instituted by Jesus) to spiritually clean and to nourish my soul on a regular basis. It is through the Blood of the risen Christ that I can maintain my internal and external baptismal cleanliness. Just as I have to keep my human body clean on a wash-as-you-go basis, I must also cleanse myself spiritually/Sacramentaly on a wash-as-you-go basis.
Until next time, God bless!