No doubt many Ukrainian Catholics have been asked this question. Many may be confused by the question. Still others may be led to feel that they are not going to be saved by God and that somehow our church is not telling them everything they need to know.
What are the facts? Why do some Christians ask these questions?
We do live in an instant society. For some, “the sooner the better” even applies to faith and salvation. Some Protestants, mainly evangelicals, understand “Faith” and “salvation” differently from us. When they use these words they are usually talking about an inner feeling, a trust in God and a trust in His Power. In order to be written into the “Book of Life” forever, one must believe that one is saved and this can happen in an instant if you “call upon the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:13). You get the feeling or emotion and therefore, you are born again into God’s Kingdom forever.
Catholics and Orthodox look at this question differently. Salvation to us is a long process of believing and living our faith through the regular struggles of life. We are in the process of salvation collectively and it carries on throughout life.
This “born again” idea is not new. In the fourth century St. John Chrysostom spoke out against the “once saved”, “always saved” or “instant salvation” idea. He reminded his listeners of the teaching of the Bible, that at the end of our earthly life, we will stand before a fearful tribunal and we will have to give an account of all that we have done and then the Almighty judge will tell us His verdict.
St Gregory the Great also spoke out against those who twisted Christ’s teaching “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter theKingdomofGod” (John 3:5). He said, “Perhaps each of you will say to himself, I have believed, therefore I shall be saved”. He continues that this may be true “if to his faith he joins good works”. St Paulspeaks of this as well, “They profess that they know God, but by their lack of works they deny Him” (Titus 1.16). St Johnsays, “He who says the he knows God, and keeps not His Commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him” (1, John2:14).
In modern Christianity there is a great debate about faith and good works. We say both must be present. We believe that we are being saved each day by trying to become as much like Jesus Christ as is humanly possible. Faith and good work are a partnership which achieves salvation. Perhaps I can quote St Gregory again. “Many serve God with their tongue, but turn from Him in their lives”.
If you really think about it, we are actually “born again” every time we go to confession and receive absolution of our sins. But, after each confession, we enter the struggle to continue to live God’s virtues through God’s Grace!
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