Wednesday, September 13, 2006
RELIGION IS A VIRTUE, BELIEVE ME
By Paul Dion, STL
Editor's Note: The following blog post was a response to a comment made on the post "I was born Catholic and I'm going to die Catholic" on this blog. The comment was posted at 4:28 am by "savedbyChrist." To allow our readers to follow this exchange, we are publishing the reader's comments in its entirety. It will be immediately followed by the response of Paul Dion to reader named "savedbyChrist."
Here is the original comment by "savedbyChrist."
What people don't seem to realize is that being saved, having a personal relationship with our Lord and having your name recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life is not dependant on a religous affiliation. People want to be Catholic, Baptist, etc because of some need to profess they are in the "right" group. They fail to realize that the right group are those who are saved. They don't know that there is a difference between religion and faith.
Religion is like a subgroup of faith. Faith is believing in Christ, living as He would have you and professing your faith in Him. Religion is merely a part. It is a group you become a part of to fellowship, enrich your faith, be given biblical teachings and direction and learn how to live and share your faith in Christ.
As with any group, if you want to be a part of it, you have to follow the guidelines.
I was born into aCatholic family, baptized, 1st communion and so forth. I graduated from a Catholic high school. I learned a great deal about the Catholic religion.
Am I going to die Catholic? No, I am going to die a Christian saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.I still have respect for those who are Catholic. I just pray that all, no matter what religous affiliation they have are saved-confessed they are a sinner, be repentant and have accepted Christ in their heart and life.
Following is Paul Dion's response to "savedby Christ."
"RELIGION IS A VIRTUE, BELIEVE ME."
Dear "savedby Christ,"
Catholics realize that the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are objects of God-given faith. They also realize that salvation (“being saved”) is an object of God-given faith. The religion that comes from that God-given faith is also an object of faith. Catholics also believe that non-catholic humans who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of perfection, following Jesus and living the way He showed us, can and do aspire to being saved.
Following Jesus requires “following the guidelines” that He himself delineated for us all. These guidelines are as much objects of faith as Jesus Himself is. Since these guidelines are contained as part and parcel of the Catholic Religion, it is logical that the religion itself is an object of God-given faith.
It is true that religion is an integral part of our faith. It is not true that religion is “merely” a part of our faith. As an integral part of our faith religion is an object of our faith.
“SavedbyChrist” you say that you do not believe in the Catholic religion, and, by extension, the Catholic Church, but your soul is infused to its depths by the Spirit of God to the extent that everything you believe is impregnated by the God-given gift of Faith under the color of the Catholic religion.
Religion is not just an agglomeration of exterior organizational forces. Religion is an internal personal virtue that makes it easier for us to express our God-given gift of faith. If we had no virtue of religion, we would not be able to live life in the footsteps of Jesus.
Jesus Himself lived His life as an Orthodox Jew. Jesus had religion. If we aspire to eternal salvation through the imitation of Jesus, As He himself has challenged us to do in the Gospels, we too have to have not only personal faith, but its integral part, religion.
The interesting part of Jesus’ life is that He challenged the leaders of His religion. He saw the
weaknesses that they had and He pointed them out to them. Through it all, He never abdicated His religious beliefs because He knew that they were an essential part of His mission on earth.
We follow Jesus’ example in a Faith which includes Religious practice. Jesus gave us an example of life that has made it possible for us to maintain religious practice that reaches back many thousands of years. The Bible that formed Jesus’ faith and religion and that we cherish so much is the product of religious people who expressed their faith in writing under the inspiration of God Himself. The Jewish religion that built the Bible under the direction of God is therefore an object of our faith. It is this religion that serves as the source of our Catholicism.
Catholics believe that and that is why the Catholic religion maintains that the most secure way to salvation is through active practice of a complete faith in God Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Catholic religion. Jesus saved us through His living of an exemplary religious life in relationship with His Father and through the spilling of His Sacred Blood which sprang forth from His Orthodox Jewish body.
It is clear that you are happy that you have learned a lot about the Catholic Religion through your many years of contact with it. It is also clear that you did not accept God’s gift of religious faith along the way.
Intellectual knowledge does not bring faith. Faith comes directly from God as an unconditionally proffered gift and is either accepted or rejected out of human freedom. Fulfilled faith is not simple acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation. Faith is a mutually practiced relationship between God and humans. In order to be complete, this relationship is fuelled by God’s gift of faith well received and the human’s response to the gift through a virtuous, generously giving religious life (Matthew, chapter 25). This response is lived within the guidelines of organized religion, usually defined by active affiliation to an organized church.
I quote a prayer in your original comment, “I just pray that all, no matter what religous (sic) affiliation they have are saved-confessed they are a sinner, be repentant and have accepted Christ in their heart and life.”
Your prayer is touching. Catholics believe that those who lead virtuous lives in response to the love of God can aspire to being saved. Catholics do not believe that passive acceptance of Christ as a personal savior alone is sufficient for salvation. Catholics believe that salvation comes only to those of good faith and clean conscience, in whatever religious affiliation, who are dynamic followers of Jesus according to His commissioning (Matthew, Chapter 28, verse 19ss).
By the way, “SavedbyChrist”, like it or not, you will die a Catholic. Your honesty gives you away. You don’t hide behind the culture of baptismal Catholicism. You call a spade a spade. Your participation in this give-and-take shows that you have been swallowed by the whale. God is taking you to your Nineveh. One day you will be thrown up on the shore of God’s mission for you. Stay ready, be aware, keep your lamp well oiled and your wick trimmed, sleep with your shoes next to your bed, keep a valid passport handy.
You have my prayers and my blessings.
Please pray for me too. Make me your personal intercessory prayer project as I have made you
mine. And please, please, if you come to know that God has called me and that I have left this "valley of tears." do not cry at my funeral.
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