Tag Archives: baptism

Baptism radiates light…

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“Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . . We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.”

St. Gregory Of Nazianzus, Oratio 40,3-4:PG 36,361C

Congratulations to a faithful friend…

To learn more about the necessity of baptism for salvation and eternal life, click here.

A reflection on the meaning of baptism

I found the description of the sacrament of baptism below to be personally true within the soul. To be “born again” by the action of the Spirit in these modern times reveals, (among a great many things), the historical reality of the presence of God in the flesh (Jesus) on earth . One learns confirmation of that visitation to his people, his death, and resurrection over 2000 years ago in one way–through the very same heart that was pierced by the Roman soldiers following his death on the cross. They wanted at that time in history to insure, with their own eyes, the death of the guilty ones; Yet, today, it is the same innocent blood and water mercifully flowing forth from the side of the Savior of the world which washes clean our sinful fallen souls, and enlightens the eyes and ears of our hearts in his bringing our souls into union with the Father—face to face in beatific communion with the Trinity. And there is no power, seen or unseen, nor evil spirit, or sin which plagues us, greater than this love of the Trinity, which God in His fullness of Glory desires to share with all men in the sacrament of baptism–Baptism reveals the meaning of life and the search for truth: To come to know, love, and serve God in this life, and be with him joyful forever in the next.

The following is from ‘Jesus of Nazareth, by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, pg. 20:

“Jesus’ Baptism, […] is understood as a repetition of the whole history, which both recapitulates the past and anticipates the future. His entering into the sins of others is a descent into the “inferno.” But he does not descend merely in the role of a spectator, as in Dante’s Inferno. Rather, he goes down in the role of one whose suffering-with-others is a transforming suffering that turns the underworld around, knocking down and flinging open the gates of the abyss. His Baptism is a descent into the house of the evil one, combat with the “strong man” (cf. Lk 11:22) who holds men captive (and the truth is that we are all very much captive to powers that anonymously manipulate us!). Throughout all its history, the world is powerless to defeat the “strong man”; he is overcome and bound by one yet stronger, who, because of his equality with God, can take upon himself all the sin of the world and then suffers it through to the end—omitting nothing on the downward path into identity with the fallen. This struggle is the “conversion” of being that brings it into a new condition, that prepares a new heaven and a new earth. Looked at from this angle, the sacrament of Baptism appears as the gift of participation in Jesus’ world-transforming struggle in the conversion of life that took place in his descent and ascent.”

Josephine County Christians: What would John Calvin and Martin Luther think of Evangelical Protestantism(s) today?

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, pain...
Image via Wikipedia

Always keeping in mind and heart the following from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Speaking of the separation of our brothers and sisters, paragraph # 818 states, “However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these community [that resulted from such separation’ and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers… All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.” (C.C.C. # 818)

I’m embarking on a new series of posts for the unity of the one Church Christ the Lord prayed for, and all responses towards that end or welcomed–Today’s first post asks the question:

What would John Calvin and Martin Luther think of Evangelical Protestantism(s) today?

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Apostate Warning: The St. Ramada Inn Synod of 2010

Ramada Inn Lobby, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

All you need to know about the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform and it’s illegitimate “Synod of the Baptized”  being held this week in Minneapolis can be found within this statement:

OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM THE ARCHDIOCESE OF SAINT PAUL AND MINNEAPOLIS

It has come to the attention of the Archdiocese that a group calling itself the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) is planning a 2010 ‘synod’ in the Archdiocese entitled, ‘Claiming Our Place at the Table’.

While the agenda for the proposed synod purports to be an exploration of the role of baptized Catholics within the institutional Church of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, it is not being conducted under the auspices of the Archdiocese, the universal Roman Catholic Church, or any entity or organization affiliated with the Archdiocese or the universal Roman Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese wishes it to be known that the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, the 2010 synod, and individuals endorsing the same, are not agents or entities of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis or the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, the Archdiocese wishes to lovingly caution those members of the faithful participating in the ‘work/study groups’ and intending to attend the synod of the potential that the issues on which CCCR will seek reform are magisterial teachings of the Church, and are therefore to be believed by divine and catholic faith. The Archdiocese also wishes to remind the faithful of its need to shun any contrary doctrines, and instead to embrace and retain, to safeguard reverently and expound faithfully, the doctrine of faith and morals proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church.

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Are You Saved? — Scripture properly interpreted…

 Couldn’t keep myself from posting this much needed article by Vic Biorseth on the doctrine of salvation. Protestant and Catholic alike will benefit from this charitable, but, truth-filled piece. The fact is, Christ established one church on earth before his ascension into heaven, wherein He sits at the right hand of the Father, the Almighty. It’s my position that one of the great victories of that Father of Lies, Satan, has been the division caused by the Protestant Reformation; and just as there is to be found absolute truth concerning God and men, there is also absolute truth concerning the church that one true God founded. This article works towards discovering the will of divine truth concerning His Church from the beginning. For further information on the origin of your church, SEE: Denominations    

Are You Saved?

Vic Biorseth, Thursday, September 02, 2010
http://www.Thinking-Catholic-Strategic-Center.com

Ananias Baptizes Paul

“Are you saved” is the popular question, and “I know I am saved” is the popular joyful answer when faith-filled Protestants get together. But they view Catholics with a combination of fear, sorrow and puzzlement. When they ask the question of a Catholic, what they get in response, most times, is the deer in the headlights response – Catholics either don’t know how to respond to that, or, they just say yes, all Catholics are saved, or something similar. (Catholics are on shaky ground here, because this is an alien doctrine to them; it is a Protestant doctrine, not a Catholic one.)

A Protestant friend, who shall remain unnamed, always puzzles over how I never miss Mass on any Sunday or Holy Day, go to confession and extra devotions, my reading material is predominantly religious, I try to live a good Christian life, I argue doggedly for the faith of our fathers, and yet, I don’t even know whether I am saved or not. How can this be, he wonders. To him, it is so important to have this knowledge, this reassurance, this confidence in eternal life, that it is unimaginable how anyone with half a brain could not want to seek it and get it. And so, among the many topics we discuss, this one keeps somehow quietly coming back up, one way or another.

The question is “Are you saved?”, and my stock answer, which has become a knee-jerk, automatic response, is “I don’t know, because I’m not dead yet, I am not the judge of salvation, and neither are you.” I do try to make it not sound as brutal as the words look in print. But the fact remains that there is but one Judge of salvation, and none of us have anything to say about it. As much as I would like to just declare myself “saved” I don’t have the nerve to do it. It would take a lot of gall, because the True Judge is always listening. I await the Word and I pray for His mercy.

In the Protestant services my friend attends, the liturgy is quite simple and very moving and soul-stirring. It opens with some “gathering” hymns, followed by some Scripture reading that is almost participatory – people bring their Bibles, highlighters and take notes. The Scripture lessons evolve into Bible-based preaching of a high quality, which may go on for multiple hours. There are musical interludes here and there, and at some point toward the end there is an “Altar Call” in which the congregants are invited to come forward for special individual prayer with the minister or other “prayer partners.” It is here, most usually, that someone publicly “confesses Jesus” and is “saved.” It is here, it is in coming forward, and in the honest act of inviting and accepting Jesus as Master into one’s life, that one is “saved.” The service ends with some “going forth” hymns, through which the congregation is inspired and sent forth to spread the Gospel.

That’s the usual course of the salvation event; however, one can accept Jesus and be “saved” at any time, and there are many and varied stories of how various people came to recognize their own salvation. As a “life changing event” it is remembered in great detail, and Protestants enjoy taking turns telling their salvation story and listening to each other.

I ain’t buying it. Now, when I say that, it is not to say that these are not fully Christian, believing, decent people, who are devout worshipers of the one and only God upon Whom eternal life depends. They are on a different faith trail than we Catholics are on, but that faith trail may lead to the same eternal life we all pray for; our Lord knows for sure, and we know that He is a Lord of Mercy. To say that Protestants have been misguided is not to say that they have been damned. They honestly seek the Lord by the light they have been given, handed on to them by their faith tradition. Remember that the Samaritan woman at the well was also outside the traditional faith, and yet she was called to receive living waters of life.

Catholics who are properly catechized in their faith know that men are born anew through the Sacrament of Baptism, and they know this from the Baptismal discourse between Nicodemus and Jesus, in John 3. The main verses:

[3] Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
[4] Nicode’mus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
[5] Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
[6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
[7] Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’
[8] The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”

The key verse is, of course, verse 5, which says:

[5] Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Look closely at that verse, and tell me what that word “water” is doing in there. Our Lord was referring to the Sacrament of Baptism. Protestants like to gloss over that word, or take it out and not even quote it; but it is there, and has been from the beginning. It cannot be ignored.

My friend has made the rather feeble attempt to explain that born of water means born of the earth, with reference to the amniotic fluid that surrounds the unborn baby, while born of spirit means some other event like the Altar call discussed above. It’s a weak argument, because of all the Scriptural references to water as spiritually cleansing, purifying and transforming. Jesus offered His “living water” to the Samaritan woman at the well; water flowed from His side on Calvary; His own Baptism was a transformational event in the eyes of witnesses, who heard the voice of God and saw His Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

Every Baptismal event in Scripture was a transformational event. Every new Christian in the primitive Church entered by being born again through Baptism. The Ethiopian Eunuch was, spiritually speaking, born anew through his Baptism. And yet my friend insists that no Baptism, and no other Sacrament or liturgy or official event is needed for human salvation. It’s a do-it-yourself project.

What does the Catholic Church say, and what does Scripture, properly interpreted, say about it? Well, it seems we are “saved” in three senses:

  1. We are already “saved” by unwarranted Grace granted us by God, meaning that God has already acted on our behalf to save us;
  2. We are in the process of being saved, and our salvation is currently being accomplished in our lives; and,
  3. There is a salvation that awaits us in the future if we persevere in faith and works.

So in a sense, we are already saved, we are in the process of being saved, and we are to be saved in the future. All three.

And yet, we can have no assurance of salvation until we stand for judgment.

Salvation from the past:

[22] We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
[23] and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
[24] For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
[25] But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Rom 8:22-25.

1] And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins
[2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.
[3] Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
[4] But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us,
[5] even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
[6] and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
[7] that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God —
[9] not because of works, lest any man should boast.
[10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Eph 2:1-10.

Salvation on-going:

[14] But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
[15] For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,
[16] to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
2 Cor 2:14-16.

[9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
[10] that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
[11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
[12] Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; [13] for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Phil 2:9-12.

[18] For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;
[19] in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
[20] who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
[21] Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
[22] who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
1 Pet 3:18-22.

Salvation in our future:

[8] But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
[9] Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
[10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
[11] Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.
Rom 5:8-11.

[9] For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
[10] According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.
[11] For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
[12] Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw —
[13] each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
[14] If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
[15] If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
[16] Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
[17] If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.
1 Cor 3:9-17.

[10] And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another.
[11] And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
[12] And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.
[13] But he who endures to the end will be saved.
[14] And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
Matt 24:10-14.

 

So it’s a process, begun by the unmerited Grace of God, cooperated with by our own free will, subject to test and perseverance. Nowhere in Scripture do I find any single thing a man can do to absolutely confirm and seal his own salvation, of which he may be certain. Not even Baptism does that; one can fall away into sin and corruption after Baptism. How could anyone possibly describe a salvation event in his life of which he is certain that he has obtained positive final judgment from the Lord? Even Paul couldn’t do that, and he didn’t do it.

Now, Paul was knocked off his high horse and into the dust on the road to Damascus, and struck blind, by the Presence of the Lord. It had to be the awakening of all awakenings, the humbling of all humblings, and the altar-call of all altar-calls. It certainly got his attention. Was his salvation assured from that time on? No. Absolutely not. We see in Acts, after this event, after he changed his tune, believed and had faith, he still had to be baptized –

10] Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Anani’as. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Anani’as.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
[11] And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying,
[12] and he has seen a man named Anani’as come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
[13] But Anani’as answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem;
[14] and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.”
[15] But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;
[16] for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
[17] So Anani’as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
[18] And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized,
[19] and took food and was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
Acts 9:10-19

 

And again –

[11] And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
[12] “And one Anani’as, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
[13] came to me, and standing by me said to me, `Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And in that very hour I received my sight and saw him.
[14] And he said, `The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth;
[15] for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard.
[16] And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
Acts 22:11-16

 

Now, why would Paul need to be baptized and have his sins washed away if he was already saved? We have his warnings about over-confidence in being justified, as in:

[12] Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
1 Cor 10:12

[22] Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.
Rom 11:22

 

and elsewhere. He was even concerned that he might lose his own salvation, as he said here:

[25] Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
[26] Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air;
[27] but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Cor 9:25-27

 

Long story made short, I can state categorically that the Lord has given me salvation, that I am assured of my current state of salvation, but I cannot pronounce myself saved. There is only One Who can do that.

What I can say with certainty is that I am redeemed, that is purchased at a great price, by the blood of Christ shed for me at Calvary. I fully intend to cooperate with that redemption until the final call, but I am tempted every single day, and I cannot make any final statements about my own final judgment. My bags are packed, and I stand ready to go.

Right now, that is. I strive to always keep my spiritual bags packed and ready.

Where do you stand?

Respond to this article at the link below :
Are You Saved?

This article and comments may be found on the web site at the link below:
http://www.Thinking-Catholic-Strategic-Center.com

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Wreck on the Highway: Praying for the Living and the Dead

The Most High, Our Father in Heaven himself, is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. And so, we ourselves must be merciful, just as Our Father is merciful…

I would first like to send my condolences and continued prayers to the family who suffered through a terrible car accident two days past on Rockydale Road, in Cave Junction. I was at the scene of the accident shortly after it happened and spent the entire time praying The Divine Mercy Chaplet on behalf of all the victims, and particularly for the children. It was not until yesterday morning after arriving at work that I was told the accident resulted in the death of one of the children, Larry. It was not easy for me to hear as a parent…

I will not speculate on the cause of the accident or any guilt that might be associated with the crash. I simply due not have the facts, it’s a small town prone to rumor, and only God is capable of reading the history of our hearts and souls in every circumstance of life we’ve each experienced. I mention this because as I made my way around town today I realized within conversations concerning the accident the (natural) tendency to try and explain the tragedy– even to the point of judging… But, for Christians we understand, (or should), that over 2000 years ago there was another day of infamy when a death occurred on a cross at around the 3 O’clock hour, the hour in which divine mercy triumphed over justice for the sake of all men and ages—including ourselves and this age, in this moment.

Historically, the spiritual works of mercy we Christians are called to carry-on within the world not only include correcting sinners and counseling those in doubt, but also–

consoling the sorrowful,

bearing wrongs patiently,

forgiving wrongs willingly,

along with Praying for the living & dead…

I don’t know if the family is spiritual or not, but nonetheless I will be offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass this coming Sunday for all their corporal and spiritual needs at this time. I ask my readers to join me in the same with the sure knowledge that nothing is ever truly lost to God…, be they the living are the dead… As he is not the God of the dead, but of the living…

Blessed be his holy name.

jme

Benedict Changes The Mass – The Study of the New Liturgy Assigned to the Congregation for Worship

The rite of the Mass [Rorate: i.e. the Mass of Paul VI] could change. According to some indiscretions, Benedict XVI has charged the Congregation for Divine Worship to study some modifications in the liturgy. In particular, the Pope is said to have the intention to restore Latin for the formula for the Eucharistic consecration within the Mass in the “vernacular language”, i.e. the one celebrated in the different national languages. The same could happen to the formulae of Baptism, Confirmation, Confession and of the other sacraments. In addition, the exchange of peace among the faithful during the Mass, which today takes place prior to the distribution of the Eucharist, could be anticipated (as in the Ambrosian rite) to the offertory so as not to disturb the recollection that precedes Communion.

These would be changes which would be added to the changes in the liturgy and regarding sacred vestments which the Pope, together with his Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, has made in recent months, to recover ancient traditions: the restoration of the crucifix at the center of the altar, the distribution of Communion to the faithful in the mouth while kneeling, the recovery of the pastoral staff of Pius IX (the ferula), the changing of the style of pallium (the strip of white wool with red crosses worn by the Pope), the restoration of the papal throne used in the Consistory and the celebration of Mass with the back to the assembly, as happened in January in the Sistine Chapel.

Many of the Council Fathers believed that this would be order of the reformed Mass: most parts in the vernacular and the (one and only) Roman Canon kept in Latin. In fact, the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium did not seem to foresee the use of the vernacular during the Canon (cf. SC 36, 2; 54; cf. Inter Oecumenici, 57-59). [Translation by Gregor Kollmorgen for The New Liturgical Movement./Tip: Papa Ratzinger blog.]

The Way of the Jubilee at Lourdes by Archbishop John Vlazny

Catholic Sentinel 05.23.08              

               It has been 150 years since the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes. There in southern France the sesquicentennial jubilee is being observed with great joy and solemnity. Eighty-nine pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Portland gathered there on the weekend of April 26-27 to participate in the way of the jubilee. It was a faith-filled and unforgettable experience.              

               We pilgrims left Portland on April 21 and along the way we had many opportunities to honor the Mother of God as we traveled around France. Many churches there are named in honor of Our Lady. We celebrated Mass at the Notre Dame Cathedrals in Rouen and Chartres. We visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Everyone agreed that the centerpiece of the pilgrimage was our Sunday morning Mass at the Grotto in Lourdes. We were joined by a group of people from Scotland. It was there that Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette on eighteen different occasions between Feb. 11 and July 16 in the year 1858.

               The Most Rev. Jacques Perrier, the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, tells us that six million people come to Lourdes every year. They come because it is a place where Christians can freely express their faith, where the sick and people with disabilities have priority, where prayer, service and fraternity between people is so evident, where children and young people find special delight and where any person can be open to God.

               We pilgrims from the archdiocese went to Lourdes to pray for healing, reconciliation and peace in our families, in our church and in our world. Like Pope Benedict XVI during his papal visit to the United States in April, we too were especially mindful of all those who were victims of child sexual abuse for too many years in our own church community. We turned to the Lord for the wisdom, compassion and understanding we need to become instruments of healing for all who have been aggrieved.

               Pope John Paul II once said that “Lourdes is the spring where the conscience becomes clear and clear again.” Pope Benedict XVI plans to come to Lourdes in August. There he will meet with the bishops of France as he met with the American bishops in D.C. during his pastoral visit this past April. Both of these remarkable pastors, like all visitors to Lourdes, look upon this world famous shrine as a place of spirituality that helps people live in our world today. As Bishop Perrier observed, the story of Lourdes is written each day by the pilgrims who come here. It is a living story.

               Our Portland pilgrims arrived late on Saturday afternoon, April 26. After supper at our hotel we participated in the nightly torchlight procession during which many languages are used in the praying of the rosary and the singing of the “Ave Maria.” There are six official languages at the sanctuary: French, Italian, Spanish, English, German and Dutch. It was a wonderful preparation for the splendid Sunday with Our Lady which was to follow.

               After Sunday morning Mass at the Grotto, most of our pilgrims participated in “The Jubilee Way.” This is a “mini-pilgrimage” all around the sanctuary which was designed by the people of Lourdes in order to help pilgrims experience the jubilee. Along the way there are four stages at which pilgrims pause to pray and to accept a sticker for their jubilee badges. When all four stickers are received the badge is complete. I shall treasure this jubilee insignia and I know it will be a special reminder for all of those prayerful days in Lourdes.

               The first stage of The Jubilee Way was the parish church where we saw the baptismal font in which St. Bernadette was baptized. We saw a facsimile of Bernadette’s baptismal certificate which had been slightly damaged in a fire. A beautiful reredos invokes the life of Bernadette. We were reminded that even before she became a visionary, she was a Christian. The sticker we received represented the Baptism of an infant.

               The second stage was the “Cachot,” an abandoned prison cell where the Soubirous family lived at the time of the apparitions. Bernadette’s family, her parents and their four children, lived in this single room, a humid and dark place of misery and shame. Our God seems to delight in calling upon the poor to be his special messengers. There we pilgrims received a sticker representing Bernadette.

               The third stage was the road to the Grotto from Bernadette’s home. Before reaching the Grotto we were able to walk by the fountains whose water comes directly from the Grotto. During the day most of the pilgrims washed and drank this water. Some even went to the baths in order to be cleansed spiritually and physically. Every pilgrim received a sticker which represented the Blessed Mother.

               The final stage of the Jubilee Way was the Hospital Oratory where Bernadette made her first Holy Communion on June 3, 1858, in the midst of all the apparitions. It was there that Bernadette met the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, the community which she eventually joined and among whom she lived in Nevers, far removed from Lourdes, until her death on April 16, 1879. There every pilgrim received the sticker representing Holy Communion. The Jubilee Way began in Baptism and ended in the Eucharist and service. Such is the Christian life.

               During her apparitions to Bernadette the Blessed Mother often spoke about the need for contrition and prayers for sinners. She asked Bernadette to look for water. Bernadette did and found a wellspring that was running clear and still does so today. This water is still a beautiful sign of conversion, a sign leading us on the path to joy and reconciliation.

               All of the holy places in Lourdes helped our pilgrims to express and experience their sincere desire for reconciliation. Many took the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Penance. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is prominent. There are several places at the shrine where this takes place. Most impressive of all, in my judgment, is the fact that persons with disabilities, physical, mental or psychological, are given a most gracious welcome to the shrine.

               My sisters and brothers from the archdiocese experienced that welcome in late April. It was an experience we shall never forget. I pray that the graces of The Jubilee Way will be shared with all our friends and neighbors now that we are back home. Ave Maria!

Editor Note: Click here to place your prayer(s) within the Holy Mass at the Grotto of Lourdes, France.

Fratres Daily Mass Readings: Easter Sunday, Vigil of the Holy Night of Easter 03.22.08

gardentomb.jpg

Reading I
Gn 1:1—2:2 or 1:1, 26-31a

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day.

Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

Then God said,
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth,“
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,

“Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

Then God said,
“Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures,
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.”
And so it happened:
God created the great sea monsters
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems,
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying,
“Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas;
and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.
Then God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished
with the work he had been doing,
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.

or

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and found it very
good.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35

R. (30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
with the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You water the mountains from your palace;
the earth is replete with the fruit of your works.
You raise grass for the cattle,
and vegetation for man’s use,
Producing bread from the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—
the earth is full of your creatures.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

or

Ps 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20 and 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as in a flask;
in cellars he confines the deep.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind. R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Reading II
Gn 22:1-18 or 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, “ he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey,
took with him his son Isaac and two of his servants as well,
and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust,
set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar.
Then he said to his servants:
“Both of you stay here with the donkey,
while the boy and I go on over yonder.
We will worship and then come back to you.”
Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust
and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders,
while he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham:
“Father!” Isaac said.
“Yes, son, “ he replied.
Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood,
but where is the sheep for the holocaust?”
“Son,” Abraham answered,
“God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”
Then the two continued going forward.

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Next he tied up his son Isaac,
and put him on top of the wood on the altar.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh;
hence people now say, (On the mountain the LORD will see.”

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing
all this because you obeyed my command.”

or

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, “ he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am, “ he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,“ said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,

that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing
all this because you obeyed my command.”

Responsorial Psalm
16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Reading III
Ex 14:15—15:1

The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land.
But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate
that they will go in after them.
Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army,
his chariots and charioteers.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,
when I receive glory through Pharaoh
and his chariots and charioteers.”

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp,
now moved and went around behind them.
The column of cloud also, leaving the front,
took up its place behind them,
so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians
and that of Israel.
But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed
without the rival camps coming any closer together
all night long.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and the LORD swept the sea
with a strong east wind throughout the night
and so turned it into dry land.
When the water was thus divided,
the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.

The Egyptians followed in pursuit;
all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them
right into the midst of the sea.
In the night watch just before dawn
the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud
upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic;
and he so clogged their chariot wheels
that they could hardly drive.
With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel,
because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians.

Then the LORD told Moses, (Stretch out your hand over the sea,
that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians,
upon their chariots and their charioteers.”
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth.
The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea,
when the LORD hurled them into its midst.
As the water flowed back,
it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army
which had followed the Israelites into the sea.
Not a single one of them escaped.
But the Israelites had marched on dry land

through the midst of the sea,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.
When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore
and beheld the great power that the LORD
had shown against the Egyptians,
they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

Responsorial Psalm
Ex 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18 

R. (1b) Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
He is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
You brought in the people you redeemed
and planted them on the mountain of your inheritance
the place where you made your seat, O LORD,
the sanctuary, LORD, which your hands established.
The LORD shall reign forever and ever.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Reading IV
Is 54:5-14

The One who has become your husband is your Maker;
his name is the LORD of hosts;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.
The LORD calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
a wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
but with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.
This is for me like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
should never again deluge the earth;
so I have sworn not to be angry with you,
or to rebuke you.
Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
my love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled,
I lay your pavements in carnelians,
and your foundations in sapphires;
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
In justice shall you be established,
far from the fear of oppression,
where destruction cannot come near you.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

R. (2a) I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Reading V
Is 55:1-11

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.
As I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of nations,
so shall you summon a nation you knew not,
and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
because of the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm
Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

Reading VI
Bar 3:9-15, 32(4:4

Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life:
listen, and know prudence!
How is it, Israel,
that you are in the land of your foes,
grown old in a foreign land,
defiled with the dead,
accounted with those destined for the netherworld?
You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom!
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have dwelt in enduring peace.
Learn where prudence is,
where strength, where understanding;
that you may know also
where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace.
Who has found the place of wisdom,
who has entered into her treasuries?

The One who knows all things knows her;
he has probed her by his knowledge
The One who established the earth for all time,
and filled it with four-footed beasts;
he who dismisses the light, and it departs,
calls it, and it obeys him trembling;
before whom the stars at their posts
shine and rejoice;
when he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!”
shining with joy for their Maker.
Such is our God;
no other is to be compared to him:

He has traced out the whole way of understanding,
and has given her to Jacob, his servant,
to Israel, his beloved son.

Since then she has appeared on earth,
and moved among people.
She is the book of the precepts of God,
the law that endures forever;
all who cling to her will live,
but those will die who forsake her.
Turn, O Jacob, and receive her:
walk by her light toward splendor.
Give not your glory to another,
your privileges to an alien race.
Blessed are we, O Israel;
for what pleases God is known to us!

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (John 6:68c) Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
the decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Reading VII
Ez 36:16-17a, 18-28

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their land,
they defiled it by their conduct and deeds.
Therefore I poured out my fury upon them
because of the blood that they poured out on the ground,
and because they defiled it with idols.
I scattered them among the nations,
dispersing them over foreign lands;
according to their conduct and deeds I judged them.
But when they came among the nations wherever they came,
they served to profane my holy name,
because it was said of them: “These are the people of the LORD,
yet they had to leave their land.”
So I have relented because of my holy name
which the house of Israel profaned
among the nations where they came.
Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord GOD:
Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel,
but for the sake of my holy name,
which you profaned among the nations to which you came.
I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations,
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your fathers;
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Responsorial Psalm
When baptism is celebrated.
Ps 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4

R. (42:2) Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
I went with the throng
and led them in procession to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of joy and thanksgiving,
with the multitude keeping festival.
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God!
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.

When baptism is not celebrated.
Is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

When baptism is not celebrated
Ps 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19

R. (12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a holocaust, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Epistle
Rom 6:3-11

Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him,
so that our sinful body might be done away with,
that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted. I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel
Mt 28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Who Can Be Saved? by Avery Cardinal Dulles

by Avery Cardinal Dulles

Nothing is more striking in the New Testament than the confidence with which it proclaims the saving power of belief in Christ. Almost every page confronts us with a decision of eternal consequence: Will we follow Christ or the rulers of this world? The gospel is, according to Paul, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Rom. 1:16). The apostles and their associates are convinced that in Jesus they have encountered the Lord of Life and that he has brought them into the way that leads to everlasting blessedness. By personal faith in him and by baptism in his name, Christians have passed from darkness to light, from error to truth, and from sin to holiness.

Paul is the outstanding herald of salvation through faith. To the Romans he writes, “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” (Rom. 10:9). Faith, for him, is inseparable from baptism, the sacrament of faith. By baptism, the Christian is immersed in the death of Christ so as to be raised with him to newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).

The Book of Acts shows the apostles preaching faith in Christ as the way to salvation. Those who believe the testimony of Peter on the first Pentecost ask him what they must do to be saved. He replies that they must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and thereby save themselves from the present crooked generation (Acts 2:37-40). When Peter and John are asked by the Jewish religious authorities by what authority they are preaching and performing miracles, they reply that they are acting in the name of Jesus Christ and that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul and his associates bring the gospel first of all to the Jews because it is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. When the Jews in large numbers reject the message, Paul and Barnabas announce that they are turning to the Gentiles in order to bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 13:46-47).

A few chapters later in Acts, we see Paul and Silas in prison at Philippi. When their jailer asks them, “What must I do to be saved?” they reply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” The jailer and his family at once accept baptism and rejoice in their newfound faith (Acts 16:30-34).

The same doctrine of salvation permeates the other books of the New Testament. Mark’s gospel ends with this missionary charge: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole of creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

John in his gospel speaks no less clearly. Jesus at one point declares that those who hear his word and believe in him do not remain in darkness, whereas those who reject him will be judged on the last day (John 12:44-50). At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the Twelve, “This is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). John concludes the body of his gospel with the statement that he has written his account “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

From these and many other texts, I draw the conclusion that, according to the primary Christian documents, salvation comes through personal faith in Jesus Christ, followed and signified by sacramental baptism.

The New Testament is almost silent about the eternal fate of those to whom the gospel has not been preached. It seems apparent that those who became believers did not think they had been on the road to salvation before they heard the gospel. In his sermon at Athens, Paul says that in times past God overlooked the ignorance of the pagans, but he does not say that these pagans were saved. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul says that the Gentiles have come to a knowledge of God by reasoning from the created world, but that they are guilty because by their wickedness they have suppressed the truth and fallen into idolatry. In the second chapter of Romans, Paul indicates that Gentiles who are obedient to the biddings of conscience can be excused for their unbelief, but he indicates that they fall into many sins. He concludes that “all have sinned and fall short” of true righteousness (Rom. 3:23). For justification, Paul asserts, both Jews and Gentiles must rely on faith in Jesus Christ, who expiated the sins of the world on the cross.

Animated by vibrant faith in Christ the Savior, the Christian Church was able to conquer the Roman Empire. The converts were convinced that in embracing Christianity they were escaping from the darkness of sin and superstition and entering into the realm of salvation. For them, Christianity was the true religion, the faith that saves. It would not have occurred to them that any other faith could save them.

Christian theologians, however, soon had to face the question whether anyone could be saved without Christian faith. They did not give a wholly negative answer. They agreed that the patriarchs and prophets of Israel, because they looked forward in faith and hope to the Savior, could be saved by adhering in advance to him who was to come.

The apologists of the second and third centuries made similar concessions with regard to certain Greek philosophers. The prologue to John’s gospel taught that the eternal Word enlightens all men who come into the world. Justin Martyr speculated that philosophers such as Socrates and Heraclitus had lived according to the Word of God, the Logos who was to become incarnate in Christ, and they could therefore be reckoned as being in some way Christians. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen held that the Wisdom of God gave graces to people of every generation, both Greeks and barbarians.

The saving grace of which these theologians were speaking, however, was given only to pagans who lived before the time of Christ. It was given by the Word of God who was to become incarnate in Jesus Christ. There was no doctrine that pagans could be saved since the promulgation of the gospel without embracing the Christian faith.

Origen and Cyprian, in the third century, formulated the maxim that has come down to us in the words Extra ecclesiam nulla salus—”Outside the Church, no salvation.” They spoke these words with heretics and schismatics primarily in view, but they do not appear to have been any more optimistic about the prospects of salvation for pagans. Assuming that the gospel had been promulgated everywhere, writers of the high patristic age considered that, in the Christian era, Christians alone could be saved. In the East, this view is represented by Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom. The view attributed to Origen that hell would in the end be evacuated and that all the damned would eventually be saved was condemned in the sixth century.

In the West, following Ambrose and others, Augustine taught that, because faith comes by hearing, those who had never heard the gospel would be denied salvation. They would be eternally punished for original sin as well as for any personal sins they had committed. Augustine’s disciple Fulgentius of Ruspe exhorted his readers to “firmly hold and by no means doubt that not only all pagans, but also all Jews, and all heretics and schismatics who are outside the Catholic Church, will go to the eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.”

The views of Augustine and Fulgentius remained dominant in the Christian West throughout the Middle Ages. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) reaffirmed the formula “Outside the Church, no salvation,” as did Pope Boniface VIII in 1302. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Council of Florence (1442) repeated the formulation of Fulgentius to the effect that no pagan, Jew, schismatic, or heretic could be saved.

On one point the medieval theologians diverged from rigid Augustinianism. On the basis of certain passages in the New Testament, they held that God seriously wills that all may be saved. They could cite the statement of Peter before the household of Cornelius: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). The First Letter to Timothy, moreover, declares that God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). These assurances made for a certain tension in Catholic teaching on salvation. If faith in Christ was necessary for salvation, how could salvation be within reach of those who had no opportunity to learn about Christ?

Thomas Aquinas, in dealing with this problem, took his departure from the axiom that there was no salvation outside the Church. To be inside the Church, he held, it was not enough to have faith in the existence of God and in divine providence, which would have sufficed before the coming of Christ. God now required explicit faith in the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation. In two of his early works ( De Veritate and Commentary on Romans), he discusses the hypothetical case of a man brought up in the wilderness, where the gospel was totally unknown. If this man lived an upright life with the help of the graces given him, Thomas reasoned, God would make it possible for him to become a Christian believer, either through an inner illumination or by sending a missionary to him. Thomas referred to the biblical example of the centurion Cornelius, who received the visitation of an angel before being evangelized and baptized by Peter (Acts 10). In his Summa Theologiae, however, Thomas omits any reference to miraculous instruction; he goes back to the Augustinian theory that those who had never heard the gospel would be eternally punished for original sin as well as their personal sins.

A major theological development occurred in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The voyages of discovery had by this time disclosed that there were large populations in North and South America, Africa, and Asia who had lived since the time of Christ and had never had access to the preaching of the gospel. The missionaries found no sign that even the most upright among these peoples had learned the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation by interior inspirations or angelic visitations.

Luther, Calvin, and the Jansenists professed the strict Augustinian doctrine that God did not will to save everyone, but the majority of Catholic theologians rejected the idea that God had consigned all these unevangelized persons to hell without giving them any possibility of salvation. A series of theologians proposed more hopeful theories that they took to be compatible with Scripture and Catholic tradition.

The Dominican Melchior Cano argued that these populations were in a situation no different from that of the pre-Christian pagans praised by Justin and others. They could be justified in this life (but not saved in the life to come) by implicit faith in the Christian mysteries. Another Dominican, Domingo de Soto, went further, holding that, for the unevangelized, implicit faith in Christ would be sufficient for salvation itself. Their contemporary, Albert Pighius, held that for these unevangelized persons the only faith required would be that mentioned in Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” They could therefore be saved by general revelation and grace even though no missionary came to evangelize them.

The Jesuit Francisco Suarez, following these pioneers, argued for the sufficiency of implicit faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation, together with an implicit desire for baptism on the part of the unevangelized. Juan de Lugo agreed, but he added that such persons could not be saved if they had committed serious sins, unless they obtained forgiveness by an act of perfect contrition.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Jesuits of the Gregorian University followed in the tradition of Suarez and de Lugo, with certain modifications. Pope Pius IX incorporated some of their ideas in two important statements in 1854 and 1863. In the first, he said that, while no one can be saved outside the Church, God would not punish people for their ignorance of the true faith if their ignorance was invincible. In the second statement, Pius went further. He declared that persons invincibly ignorant of the Christian religion who observed the natural law and were ready to obey God would be able to attain eternal life, thanks to the workings of divine grace within them. In the same letter, the pope reaffirmed that no one could be saved outside the Catholic Church. He did not explain in what sense such persons were, or would come to be, in the Church. He could have meant that they would receive the further grace needed to join the Church, but nothing in his language suggests this. More probably he thought that such persons would be joined to the Church by implicit desire, as some theologians were teaching by his time.

In 1943, Pius XII did take this further step. In his encyclical on the Mystical Body, Mystici Corporis, he distinguished between two ways of belonging to the Church: in actual fact (in re) or by desire (in voto). Those who belonged in voto, however, were not really members. They were ordered to the Church by the dynamism of grace itself, which related them to the Church in such a way that they were in some sense in it. The two kinds of relationship, however, were not equally conducive to salvation. Those adhering to the Church by desire could not have a sure hope of salvation because they lacked many spiritual gifts and helps available only to those visibly incorporated in the true Church.

Mystici Corporis represents a forward step in its doctrine of adherence to the Church through implicit desire. From an ecumenical point of view, that encyclical is deficient, since it does not distinguish between the status of non-Christians and non-Catholic Christians. The next important document came from the Holy Office in its letter to Cardinal Cushing of Boston in 1949. The letter pointed out—in opposition to Father Leonard Feeney, S.J., and his associates at St. Benedict Center—that, although the Catholic Church was a necessary means for salvation, one could belong to it not only by actual membership but by also desire, even an unconscious desire. If that desire was accompanied by faith and perfect charity, it could lead to eternal salvation.

Neither the encyclical Mystici Corporis nor the letter of the Holy Office specified the nature of the faith required for in voto status. Did the authors mean that the virtue of faith or the inclination to believe would suffice, or did they require actual faith in God and divine providence, or actual faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation?

The Second Vatican Council, in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church and its Decree on Ecumenism, made some significant departures from the teaching of Pius XII. It avoided the term member and said nothing of an unconscious desire for incorporation in the Church. It taught that the Catholic Church was the all-embracing organ of salvation and was equipped with the fullness of means of salvation. Other Christian churches and communities possessed certain elements of sanctification and truth that were, however, derived from the one Church of Christ that subsists in the Catholic Church today. For this reason, God could use them as instruments of salvation. God had, however, made the Catholic Church necessary for salvation, and all who were aware of this had a serious obligation to enter the Church in order to be saved. God uses the Catholic Church not only for the redemption of her own members but also as an instrument for the redemption of all. Her witness and prayers, together with the eucharistic sacrifice, have an efficacy that goes out to the whole world.

In several important texts, Vatican II took up the question of the salvation of non-Christians. Although they were related to the Church in various ways, they were not incorporated in her. God’s universal salvific will, it taught, means that he gives non-Christians, including even atheists, sufficient help to be saved. Whoever sincerely seeks God and, with his grace, follows the dictates of conscience is on the path to salvation. The Holy Spirit, in a manner known only to God, makes it possible for each and every person to be associated with the Paschal mystery. “God, in ways known to himself, can lead those inculpably ignorant of the gospel to that faith without which it is impossible to please him.” The council did not indicate whether it is necessary for salvation to come to explicit Christian faith before death, but the texts give the impression that implicit faith may suffice.

Vatican II left open the question whether non-Christian religions contain revelation and are means that can lead their adherents to salvation. It did say, however, that other religions contain elements of truth and goodness, that they reflect rays of the truth that enlightens all men, and that they can serve as preparations for the gospel. Christian missionary activity serves to heal, ennoble, and perfect the seeds of truth and goodness that God has sown among non-Christian peoples, to the glory of God and the spiritual benefit of those evangelized.

While repeatedly insisting that Christ is the one mediator of salvation, Vatican II shows forth a generally hopeful view of the prospects of non-Christians for salvation. Its hopefulness, however, is not unqualified: “Rather often, men, deceived by the evil one, have become caught up in futile reasoning and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or, some there are who, living and dying in a world without God, are subject to utter hopelessness.” The missionary activity of the Church is urgent for bringing such persons to salvation.

After the council, Paul VI (in his pastoral exhortation “Evangelization in the Modern World”) and John Paul II (in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio) interpreted the teaching of Vatican II in relation to certain problems and theological trends arising since the council. Both popes were on guard against political and liberation theology, which would seem to equate salvation with formation of a just society on earth and against certain styles of religious pluralism, which would attribute independent salvific value to non-Christian religions. In 2000, toward the end of John Paul’s pontificate, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the declaration Dominus Iesus, which emphatically taught that all grace and salvation must come through Jesus Christ, the one mediator.

Wisely, in my opinion, the popes and councils have avoided talk about implicit faith, a term that is vague and ambiguous. They do speak of persons who are sincerely seeking for the truth and of others who have found it in Christ. They make it clear that sufficient grace is offered to all and that God will not turn away those who do everything within their power to find God and live according to his law. We may count on him to lead such persons to the faith needed for salvation.

One of the most interesting developments in post-conciliar theology has been Karl Rahner’s idea of “anonymous Christians.” He taught that God offers his grace to everyone and reveals himself in the interior offer of grace. Grace, moreover, is always mediated through Christ and tends to bring its recipients into union with him. Those who accept and live by the grace offered to them, even though they have never heard of Christ and the gospel, may be called anonymous Christians.

Although Rahner denied that his theory undermined the importance of missionary activity, it was widely understood as depriving missions of their salvific importance. Some readers of his works understood him as teaching that the unevangelized could possess the whole of Christianity except the name. Saving faith, thus understood, would be a subjective attitude without any specifiable content. In that case, the message of the gospel would have little to do with salvation.

The history of the doctrine of salvation through faith has gone through a number of stages since the High Middle Ages. Using the New Testament as their basic text, the Church Fathers regarded faith in Christ and baptism as essential for salvation. On the basis of his study of the New Testament and Augustine, Thomas Aquinas held that explicit belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation was necessary for everyone who lived since the time of Christ, but he granted that in earlier times it was sufficient to believe explicitly in the existence and providence of God.

In the sixteenth century, theologians speculated that the unevangelized were in the same condition as pre-Christians and were not held to believe explicitly in Christ until the gospel was credibly preached to them. Pius IX and the Second Vatican Council taught that all who followed their conscience, with the help of the grace given to them, would be led to that faith that was necessary for them to be saved. During and after the council, Karl Rahner maintained that saving faith could be had without any definite belief in Christ or even in God.

We seem to have come full circle from the teaching of Paul and the New Testament that belief in the message of Christ is the source of salvation. Reflecting on this development, one can see certain gains and certain losses. The New Testament and the theology of the first millennium give little hope for the salvation of those who, since the time of Christ, have had no chance of hearing the gospel. If God has a serious salvific will for all, this lacuna needed to be filled, as it has been by theological speculation and church teaching since the sixteenth century. Modern theology, preoccupied with the salvation of non-Christians, has tended to neglect the importance of explicit belief in Christ, so strongly emphasized in the first centuries. It should not be impossible, however, to reconcile the two perspectives.

Scripture itself assures us that God has never left himself without a witness to any nation (Acts 14:17). His testimonies are marks of his saving dispensations toward all. The inner testimony of every human conscience bears witness to God as lawgiver, judge, and vindicator. In ancient times, the Jewish Scriptures drew on literature that came from Babylon, Egypt, and Greece. The Book of Wisdom and Paul’s Letter to the Romans speak of God manifesting his power and divinity through his works in nature. The religions generally promote prayer and sacrifice as ways of winning God’s favor. The traditions of all peoples contain elements of truth imbedded in their cultures, myths, and religious practices. These sound elements derive from God, who speaks to all his children through inward testimony and outward signs.

The universal evidences of the divine, under the leading of grace, can give rise to a rudimentary faith that leans forward in hope and expectation to further manifestations of God’s merciful love and of his guidance for our lives. By welcoming the signs already given and placing their hope in God’s redeeming love, persons who have not heard the tidings of the gospel may nevertheless be on the road to salvation. If they are faithful to the grace given them, they may have good hope of receiving the truth and blessedness for which they yearn.

The search, however, is no substitute for finding. To be blessed in this life, one must find the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, which is worth buying at the cost of everything one possesses. To Christians has been revealed the mystery hidden from past ages, which the patriarchs and prophets longed to know. By entering through baptism into the mystery of the cross and the Resurrection, Christians undergo a radical transformation that sets them unequivocally on the road to salvation. Only after conversion to explicit faith can one join the community that is nourished by the Word of God and the sacraments. These gifts of God, prayerfully received, enable the faithful to grow into ever greater union with Christ.

In Christ’s Church, therefore, we have many aids to salvation and sanctification that are not available elsewhere. Cardinal Newman expressed the situation admirably in one of his early sermons:

The prerogative of Christians consists in the possession, not of exclusive knowledge and spiritual aid, but of gifts high and peculiar; and though the manifestation of the Divine character in the Incarnation is a singular and inestimable benefit, yet its absence is supplied in a degree, not only in the inspired record of Moses, but even, with more or less strength, in those various traditions concerning Divine Providences and Dispositions which are scattered through the heathen mythologies.

We cannot take it for granted that everyone is seeking the truth and is prepared to submit to it when found. Some, perhaps many, resist the grace of God and reject the signs given to them. They are not on the road to salvation at all. In such cases, the fault is not God’s but theirs. The references to future punishment in the gospels cannot be written off as empty threats. As Paul says, God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7).

We may conclude with certitude that God makes it possible for the unevangelized to attain the goal of their searching. How that happens is known to God alone, as Vatican II twice declares. We know only that their search is not in vain. “Seek, and you will find,” says the Lord (Matt. 7:7). If non-Christians are praying to an unknown God, it may be for us to help them find the one they worship in ignorance. God wants everyone to come to the truth. Perhaps some will reach the goal of their searching only at the moment of death. Who knows what transpires secretly in their consciousness at that solemn moment? We have no evidence that death is a moment of revelation, but it could be, especially for those in pursuit of the truth of God.

Meanwhile, it is the responsibility of believers to help these seekers by word and by example. Whoever receives the gift of revealed truth has the obligation to share it with others. Christian faith is normally transmitted by testimony. Believers are called to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Who, then, can be saved? Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God’s promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted. But that same grace brings obligations to all who receive it. They must not receive the grace of God in vain. Much will be demanded of those to whom much is given.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., holds the Laurence J. McGinley Chair in Religion and Society at Fordham University. This essay is adapted from the Laurence J. McGinley Lecture delivered on November 7, 2007.

The Orate Fratres

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