August 9, 2012

Am I Saved?

Catechism Readings:  Paragraphs 1987 – 2011

You just call out my name,
And you know wherever I am,
I’ll come running,
To see you again.

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall,
All you have to do is call,
And I’ll be there, yes I will.
You’ve got a friend.
            You’ve Got a Friend  -- Carole King, ©1971, as sung by Anne Murray

It was a quiet Tuesday night as I began the Intercessory Prayers before beginning the catechism lesson, alone --- but fortunately I started with Anne Murray’s soft singing, which reminded me that I was not really alone, and I thought of my departed sister who had given me this wonderful album.

Things should have progressed rapidly this night, but I found I had so many friends and neighbors and strangers to pray for, and for the Church which needed so many blessings and graces in this its time of trial.  And yet, I found so many things to be thankful for also.  I thought on all these things at length, and God and I chatted a bit.  It is a good thing to do, when you are home alone in the evening.  I think both of us found we had time on our hands, and we could think on things, bad yes, but good also.  God has so much about Him to think on that is good.  And in all things, He makes good.

When I finished prayers, I began to read again the catechism paragraphs scheduled for tonight:  Justification.  As I began reading the catechism, I saw that the pages of this topic were heavily underlined and highlighted --- I had read this before many years ago, and based on all my markings I learned much then.  And I have forgotten much.  It is a complex topic to explain.

“The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us (I looked up a definition at this point, to make sure I didn’t get lost right at the beginning.  Justify: To judge, regard, or treat as righteous and worthy of salvation.), that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ’ and through Baptism. 1987  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life. 1988  Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high.  ‘Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.’ 1989   Justification detaches man from sin (and) follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness.” 1990

“Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ.  Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith.  It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy.  It’s purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. They are justified by his grace as a gift ...  1992   The possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery is offered to all men.” 618

“Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom.  On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith (like the Baptismal promises) to the Word of God, which invites him to man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.1994  The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them.  … all men may obtain salvation through faith, Baptism, and the observance of the Commandments.” 2068

“Our justification comes from the grace of God.  Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.  Grace is a participation in the life of God.  It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life.” 1996-7  (I guess, looking at it another way, grace helps us to know WWJD.)  The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.  It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism.  It is in us the source of the work of sanctification.” 1999  (My margin comment here was: “What causes us to gain heaven, i.e., to be sanctified?  A: It does not begin with us or our actions!  But our good actions are needed.)

“God’s free initiative demands man’s free response.  He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy.  2002  Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us.  But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church.  There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacrament.  There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning ‘favor,’ gratuitous gift,’ ‘benefit.’  Charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church”. 2003

Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith.  We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.  However, according to the Lord’s words – ‘Thus you will know them by their fruits’ – reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us.  (Therefore, as I understand this doctrine, we can’t be sure we are saved, but reflection on God’s blessings are an indicator.) 2005  The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory”. 1832

(In answer to the question:  Can man merit heaven? This next section speaks to “Merit”).  “With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man.  Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator. 2007  The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace.  The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful.” 2008 

 “Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice.  This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us ‘co-heirs’ with Christ and worthy of obtaining ‘the promised inheritance of eternal life.’  The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.  ‘Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due … Our merits are God’s gifts.” 2009 

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification at the beginning of conversion.  Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.  Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom.  These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer.”  2010  

(As usual, YOUCAT put much of the complex doctrine in simple words.)  “God’s grace makes us capable of living in God’s love and acting on the basis of this love.  Grace is infused in us from above and cannot be explained in terms of natural causes (supernatural grace).  It makes us --- especially through Baptism --- children of God and heirs of heaven.  It bestows on us a permanent disposition to do good (habitual grace).  Q340  Q:Can someone earn heaven by good works?  A: No.  No man can gain heaven merely by his own efforts.  The fact that we are saved is God’s grace, pure and simple, which nevertheless demands the free cooperation of the individual.  Although it is grace and faith through which we are saved, nevertheless, our good works ought to show the love produced by God’s action in us. Q341  Q: Are we all supposed to become ‘saints’?  A: Yes.  The purpose of our life is to be united with God in love and to correspond entirely to God’s wishes.  We should allow God ‘to live his life in us.’  That is what it means to be holy: ‘a saint.’  Every man asks himself the question:  Who am I and why am I here, how do I find myself?  Faith answers: Only in holiness does man become that for which God created him.  Holiness, however, is not some sort of self-made perfection; rather, it is union with the incarnate love that is Christ.  Anyone who gains new life in this way finds himself and becomes holy.”  Q342

Wow!!  This was one of our shorter lessons to date, and one of our longer “summaries.”  But while I was in the chapel yesterday my thoughts turned to this subject again, and I came away with a different way to look at this teaching ---- one that perhaps I’ll remember this time. 

Justification:  We begin standing in a room of darkness.  Justification is as if God shows us a light through the doorway into our room of darkness –- His grace first invites us to come to Him, something we are inclined to do.  We respond, saying we wish to go to the light --- we commit to Him in faith.  Then He comes to us and takes our hand --- the sacraments give us further graces, and He comes to us, and leads us to Him.  In the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, He comes to us.  Then together we go out of the darkness into His light.

As the catechism explained, He is the one who first invites us, with grace.  He is the one who constantly encourages us with His Word and sacrament.  But still, it is us in freedom who commit to go with Him.  By our actions, our works, are demonstrated our movement toward Him.  But still, we can choose the darkness, if we wish, but He gives us every opportunity to be justified in Him.

That is my way of looking at Justification.  By Jesus’ incarnation and cross, He first opened the door to my life, so His light could shine through.  Justification is my taking God’s hand and being led out of the darkness into His light. I want it, but He made it possible.  Praise God!         

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