Our world is consumed with pride.
So are we, if we’re honest. Or maybe it’s just me.
We see this pride in everything. The media proudly struts about, pounding their nonsense into the brains of those foolish enough to listen to them, lecturing us about how we should be living a more woke life. The education system proudly flaunts the fact that they have largely abandoned traditional teaching methods and classic education and, rather than teaching our children how to think and read and interact with their fellow humans, they clamor about how modern their methods are, while teachers unions whine about doing their job because they might get sick. The government so proudly lectures us, in the persons of the radical left, about how we are all racists and sexual bigots because we (Catholics) cling to the Faith. Our own Church hierarchy, in their arrogance, feel that they can adjust the Tradition of the Church to fit into their liberal ideology and expect the faithful to just go along with the nonsense.
It’s everywhere and consumes all in its path.
This was, perhaps, the great sin of Lucifer. In his pride, he wanted to be the star of the show, not some lowly virgin who would give miraculous birth and certainly not to God the Son who would dare to lower Himself to become human. How dare God not recognize the beauty and knowledge and wonder of him, Lucifer thought! He was and is consumed by pride.
But our readings today point us in a very different direction. Our Epistle is St. Paul’s famous text on humility: Philippians 2:5-11. Our gospel reading is St. Matthew’s narrative of the Passion of our Lord Jesus: Matthew 26:36-75, 27:1-60.
Let us consider together the humility of our Lord Jesus. St. Paul reminds us that we are to have the mind of Christ. And, in our text today, what is the mind of Christ?
He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. God the Son, who has existed for all eternity, through Whom the world was made, for Whom the world was made, took upon Himself human flesh. He took on all our weakness and frailty. Imagine, brothers and sisters. God has become human. He emptied Himself of the glory in which He lived and the constant praise of the angelic hosts to hear the hateful words of sinful man who spat on Him and mocked Him. We could spend the rest of our lives meditating on this fact and not exhaust its depths:
He emptied Himself.
He humbled Himself, being obedient to death, even to death on a cross. Fathom, if you can, the humility of the God-man, God the Son, who was and is and is to come. He obeyed the will of the Father, knowing it would cost Him agony that we cannot possibly comprehend and suffering a death that was excruciating beyond what we can imagine. Look at our gospel reading and see His agony. He was beaten, spat upon, stripped naked, nailed to a cross. Behold His suffering and fall on your knees, brothers and sisters.
And we, brothers and sisters, we not only observe but are invited to participate in His very Passion. What grace He has given us, that we should be joined to His suffering and death by faith! We cannot, we must not turn away from our own suffering for, in it, we embrace the suffering of our Messiah.
Embrace the humility of our Lord Jesus in your own life. In the garden, He said, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me.”
What an invitation He has given us! We are invited to stay with Him and watch with Him in prayer!
Do our souls sorrow for our sins?
Do we watch with Christ in prayer?
Our Lord said to the Father, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Are we willing to submit to the will of the Father, no matter the cost? Are we willing to submit our own will? Do we submit to His Church, and thus to Him, or do we demand our own way? Let us take to heart the words of our Savior, even in His suffering and Passion,
“Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak.”
Let us embrace what our Lord has gone before us to show. Let us take to heart His words and amend our lives, rend our hearts and submit. Let us watch and pray that we may not enter into temptation. Our flesh is indeed weak and selfish and prideful. Pray, brothers and sisters, that your spirit would be made willing. Fast, pray, embrace the life our Lord has called us to, a life of submission to the will of the Father and service to our Lord Jesus.
And what shall come of us after we have submitted, after we have fasted and prayed, after we have submitted to the will of the Father?
Like the veil of the temple, our hearts will be torn in two. Not in pain but in freedom. For the veil of our flesh and sin that has separated us from God our Father will have been torn finally in two. Our hearts of stone will become hearts of true flesh. We shall have then the mind of Christ. And we shall see our Lord face to face, as He is.
Oh, this is the end, dear brothers and sisters, of embracing the Passion of our Lord. We shall be made in His image and we shall see Him face to face! Watch ye, therefore, and pray!
Salvation and the Church
“Can’t we all just get along?”
Ya’ll remember that? It was a statement made famous by Rodney King after he was brutally beaten (unjustly, I might add) by a bunch of LAPD officers.
I think we do this in the Church sometimes as well. We desperately want everyone to get along. The fact of the matter is that Truth is Truth and the Truth will always divide us. The reason for that is that some embrace Truth and others do not. It’s rather hard to “get along” with those who do not embrace Truth when you do.
I bring this up because of something I heard a priest say recently at Mass. He said that the “Catholic Church has never taught that you must be Catholic to be saved.” Now I know that I’m gonna step on some toes with this post but that’s okay. In the words of my mama, “You can get glad in the same pants you got mad in.”
I feel like this is an issue that I must address. With respect to the priest, he is flat out wrong. The Church has taught that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church on many occasions, for many years. We’ll get into that in a moment, but I just have to say this:
This whole idea of ecumenism is problematic. This idea that we all need to go along to get along is creating more problems than it is solving. The refusal of the modern Catholic Church to stand on the Traditions of the Church is not helping in this idea of “evangelization.” In fact, I say that ecumenism is unloving. If we truly believe (as Catholic Christians) what both Holy Scripture (and Jesus Himself) and Holy Tradition says, then we are actually unloving and damning people to Hell if we don’t proclaim that truth.
The current hierarchy of the Church (and pretty much for the last 50 years or so) seem to be obsessed with not offending anyone, except traditional Catholics. Truth has the tendency to divide. Jesus Himself laid down some hard lines, saying things like ‘you’re either with me or against me’ and other such hard-line things. It’s really only been in the more modern era that we all seem to be scared of standing firm.
So, to the priest on Sunday who said that, and to you, dear reader, let me say unequivocally that the Church has been quite clear on this historically and indeed Holy Scripture is quite clear on this. There is no salvation outside the Church.
Now, we need to unpack that a bit.
Let’s start with Holy Scripture. In the gospel according to St. Mark, chapter 16:15-16 we read,
“And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”
The “he” here is Christ speaking to the Apostles. So, on its face, this is really clear. Those who believe AND are baptized shall be saved. Those who do not believe are condemned. So, two things are necessary: belief and baptism. Without those two things, you cannot be saved.
Ok, believe what?
Jesus says, in John 14:6,
“Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.”
First and foremost, we are to believe that Jesus and Jesus alone is the way to the Father. In other words, we must believe that He is God and His life, death, burial and resurrection has saved us from our sins and provided us restoration with God the Father and eternal life in His presence. If we then believe that, what does that mean we are to do? You can’t just believe and do nothing about it. Belief that doesn’t change the way you live is not belief at all. Jesus told His Apostles, in Matthew 28:19,
“Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
We are to believe and be baptized. St. Peter reiterates this in Acts 2:38,
“But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
St. Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 12:13,
“For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink.”
And again, in Ephesians 4:5,
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
So, if we are baptized into Christ (as He commanded), then we are baptized into one body (the Church) and there can be only one as St. Paul reminds us. If Jesus came to build a visible Church (see Matthew 16:18), then it stands to reason that there can only be one Church. As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:13,
“Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
No indeed. Christ is not divided. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism. So, if there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism, there is only one Church; One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Therefore, to be part of the body of Christ, the Church that He built through His Apostles, means that you must be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is clear from Holy Scripture.
And has the Church Herself taught this? Yes. Over and over and over again.
Origen, Irenaeus, St. Fulgentius, St. Jerome, Venerable Bede, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Peter Canisius, Robert Bellarmine, Pope Pelaguis II, Pope Gregory the Great, Pope Leo XII, Pope Boniface VIII, Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XI are just a few of the men and Fathers of the Church who have clearly taught and believed this doctrine throughout the history of the Church.
Furthermore, the Fourth Lateran Council, the Council of Florence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the declaration, Dominus Iesus (from the year 2000), which states,
"…it must be firmly believed that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door…” all affirm this teaching. So, where this priest, or anyone else, got the idea that the Catholic Church has never taught that you must be Catholic to be saved is quite beyond me.
Now, to talk about the 10,000 lb elephant in the room…Does that mean that Protestants are not saved?
What I can say without equivocation is what I’ve said before. Jesus came to build a visible Church. He did not build many visible churches; He built One Church and commanded us to follow Him within that framework, starting with baptism. Therefore, it follows that those outside the visible Church are not part of the Church and must become part of the Church in order to obtain all the graces of God.
However, that does not mean that God is not merciful. If I may quote Dominus Iesus again,
“…for those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is ... communicated by the Holy Spirit; it has a relationship with the Church, which, according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit."”
A word, if I may, about these statements from Dominus Iesus. For far too long, the Church has equivocated and given vague ambiguity where clarity and precision are due. The word “pastoral” has been thrown around with regularity since Vatican II in the Catholic Church. I feel like Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” To be pastoral does not mean to equivocate and dodge the issue by platitudes and being ambiguity. To be pastoral means that we state the truth, no matter the outcome, because souls are at stake. If we fail to state the truth and preach the truth, we are, in fact, being unloving and, indeed, not pastoral.
I will not equivocate with the truth. There is no salvation outside the Church. As a Protestant convert, I came face to face with that myself, so I won’t now dodge the question. There is no salvation outside the Church. Period. Full stop.
The bottom line is this: The Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, came to earth. He lived, ministered, died, was buried and raised from the dead so that we, by faith in Him, may be restored to relationship with God the Father. Faith in Him demands that we be obedient to His commands, including being part of and submitting to His mystical Body here on earth. That is the Church.
Rather than see this as confining, let us see this for the grace it is! God has given us a very great gift in the Church. Why wouldn’t we want to be part of the Body of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?!