What saves us?

What saves us

We Christians are a confused lot. All of us would agree that we are saved by the cross of Christ, but many are fuzzy on the details. That extends to what we must do, if anything, to be saved.

Some would say we need not do anything. Many say we need only have faith. A few accuse others of trying to merit heaven by their works. Many say it is by baptism or perhaps only through baptism of those who have reached the age of reason. Others say that baptism is symbolic and we are saved only by accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior, typically responding to an “altar call.”

They can not all be right! Yet, there is some truth in all of these conflicting ideas.

The short answer is that the baptized are saved by grace through faith. Grace comes to us as God’s infinite divine mercy, fully merited for us by Christ. It is a pure gift which we are free to accept or reject. Grace is not forced upon us. We accept it — we “open the gift” — through faith.

Faith is believing, but alone without a living response would be but an empty declaration. Faith without works is dead. St. James is quite direct and powerful on this point (James 2:14-26). It is indeed, the only place in scripture where faith and works are mentioned together and only to stress the futility of “faith alone”. As St. James notes, even the demons believe in God.

This in no way implies that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient or that we could merit salvation through our efforts. Rather, our faith must be fruitful (Matthew 7:16-20), reflecting God’s will:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’

Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

Consider two men, both of whom self-identify as farmers. The first man is a avid reader about all aspects of farming and knows the topic thoroughly. His fields however, lay uncultivated and bear no fruit. The second man may be less of a farming expert than the first, but works in the fields – plowing, planting, harvesting.

Both of these men know farming, but which one would we call a farmer? So it is with Christians.

Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

As it is written: “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

Mercy: a limited-time offer

Mercy Limited Time Offer

God’s immense mercy is in the news! Unfortunately, this supreme gift is often misrepresented. I will get to that in a moment.

December 8th through the following November 20th is a Holy Year of Mercy, an extraordinary jubilee. In announcing it, the Holy Father proclaimed “No one can be excluded from God’s mercy.”

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

His divine mercy truly is extraordinary and is the bedrock of Christian faith. We sin against God and the wages of sin is death. THAT is how serious sin is and the fate we deserve from a just but unmerciful god. God is not unmerciful and sent His only begotten Son into the world to offer us a choice.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.

But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Friends, that is God’s mercy and truly good news. Through Jesus Christ, every person, no matter the depths of their transgressions, may be forgiven. It is extraordinary and Pope Francis is a wise shepherd in declaring this year of mercy.

Make no mistake, while God’s incredible mercy is offered to all, this year and every year – it comes with one simple condition and is a limited time offer. The condition is contrition — acknowledge, understand, be truly sorry, and turn away from sin. The time limit is our lifetime and the clock is our beating hearts.

We have the free will to reject this generous and loving offer, that is to reject God. God’s love is so abundant, He does not force us to reciprocate. When we reject God’s commandments we reject Him and the undeserved mercy He offers us.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.

Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

God’s great mercy is for everyone yet many will say “no thanks.” They do this in their pride and arrogance by rejecting God’s commandments, accepting morality not as God revealed truth but as the world continuously redefines it. They may call themselves Catholic or Christian or anything else, but in fact they manifestly reject God’s will and only accept Him, if at all, on their own terms and conditions. In doing so, they reject His mercy. By not dying on the spot, God’s boundless mercy continues to sustain them – temporarily.

It is disastrously wrong to expect God’s mercy to be an unconditioned entitlement. It is also wrong to believe God’s mercy is given by merely expressing empty “belief” without works (that is, without reflecting honest belief in our heart and through our actions).

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?

So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.

Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.

Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.”

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Divine mercy is not something we give. We are not God. It is not for us to judge. God will and when He does at the moment of our death, no amount of word games, excuses, false claims or blaming others could fool Him (should that be one’s plan). He knows us better then we know ourselves.

What if, some may ask, a person is invincibly ignorant or has diminished mental capacity or in some other way is not willfully rejecting God? Is there no hope? First, as long as they draw breath there is hope they will turn to God. Second, God is the most perfect and merciful judge. For any individual person, the answer is “we don’t know”. We pray for them, for everyone else and for ourselves. No one should presume to know (itself a sin). However, we know with certainty that Hell is real. Scripture and the Saints suggest it is anything but empty.

Headlines which speak of the Church or the pope offering mercy are distortions. Willful non-repentant sinners are themselves rejecting absolution. They are seeking worldly acceptance but are separating themselves from God and choosing to remain so. The angels and saints weep.

The media suggests the Church can / should / will adopt a “more merciful policy” on adultery, abortion, homosexual and other sinful acts. God’s mercy already absolves these sins for the truly repentant. The media’s implication however is that those who engage in these sinful acts, sometimes loud and proud, but without contrition should still be accepted and tolerated. Of course our brothers and sisters are accepted. It is the sinful acts that are rejected, not the sinners which we all are. That is not good enough for secular thought, which insists these acts are natural, good and wholesome. We call that scandal and such false affirmation will never come from Christ’s true Church. This prideful beef is with God as these violate His commandments. It is utterly impossible for the Church to change this, nor does she desire to. God’s way is the way and the truth and the life.

Walk on Water

Walk On Water

Sometimes I walk on water and I hope that you do too! It is real, supernatural and can be trusted 100%. Yes, yes, I am speaking figuratively but it is very real none-the-less.

We walk on water when we trust in the Lord completely. The more saintly among us do this routinely. For the rest of us, it is still a more conscious choice. We particularly experience this when we are unable to be in control, turning ourselves and our problems over to Him. We do not abandon the problem and step back into the boat. Rather we trust Jesus, work as His instruments and accept the direction He takes us.

This is easier said than done. We try to be self-reliant and solve problems ourselves. As complications increase we can start to sink before we realize it. Knowing when we are in too deep and asking God to take this increasing burden from us might not occur to us. So we too often keep control as we sink toward the bottom. It takes humility to see when this is happening. Peter trusted the Lord and didn’t hesitate to give up control (his will to keep a solid, if wobbly, platform beneath himself). Nothing he could do would change his buoyancy, yet he did not sink. Miracles work when faith is present.

Even when we do place our trust in the Lord we can be tempted to interfere. That is, attempting to reassert some control. Our trust then becomes conditional, subject to our will — effectively we revoke trust. You know how that works out. Peter discovered those consequences as he doubted the miracle he was in. The more he doubted, the more he sank. His faith – his trust – was waning, he was taking back control and sinking.

Jesus does not give-up on us when put our faith on ourselves. He is still there by our side waiting to extend His saving hand when our sometimes prideful freewill gets us into trouble. As Peter sank, he turned back to Christ and embraced His outstretched hand. He didn’t drown, but I bet he got soaking wet.

Think about that big problem you are currently dealing with. It might be publicly known like an issue at work or perhaps a very private matter known only to you. Do you really want to “go it alone”? For that matter, is there ever a time that you should? Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.

At once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.

But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Why genuflect?

Why Genuflect

When we Catholics initially enter a pew or when we exit the pew before leaving church, we “genuflect.” That means that we briefly kneel, bending our left leg and touching our right knee to the floor. Why?

Some possible reasons:

  1. It is a charming habit.
  2. Everyone else does, so to fit in.
  3. It is a tradition, a “Catholicy” thing to do!
  4. We are acknowledging the fact that we are literally in the presence of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings. He is really, substantially before us in the Holy Eucharist – in body, blood, soul and divinity – reserved in the tabernacle. We acknowledge this and submit to His divine Kingship in humble adoration.

The correct answer of course is the last one. Genuflecting reminds us of who and where we are. We are not God and He is. We are in the MOST sacred space, where the passion, death and resurrection or our Savior is made present through the Mass. At that once and for all time sacrifice, we are assembled with far more people than those of the parish present. We are together in communion with all the angels and saints (known and unknown) and with the faithful of every past and every future Mass everywhere.

Sometimes when we genuflect this is not foremost in our mind. We may be thinking of other things or acting out of habit. That friends, is really sad. Properly genuflecting may be the most important thing we do to prepare our hearts and minds for the Mass. A quick mini-curtsy or head nod toward the front does not do it.

Catholic brothers and sisters, recommit yourselves to getting this right. Do so at the very next Mass you attend (and every one after that):

  • Think.
  • Find the sanctuary lamp. Is it lit? You are in His presence.
  • Face the tabernacle and touch you right knee to the floor. Completely.
  • Optional: bow your head (I prefer that) and/or cross yourself (the preference of most other people).

If you need to steady yourself, by all means hold on to the pew as necessary. If you physically can not do this, just do what you can (we are never expected to do the impossible).

Non-Catholic visitors, welcome! I wrote how your visit might seem like you are in a strange land, but will summarize. We Catholics believe (actually, know beyond any doubt whatsoever) that our communion bread literally becomes Christ just as He said. Not all of His most Holy Body is consumed by those receiving. That which is not is “reserved” (safely and respectfully kept) in a “tabernacle” (a special dwelling place harking back to that which Moses constructed). While rare (e.g. after Holy Thursday and throughout Good Friday), it is possible that the tabernacle is empty. When empty, Christ is not present and we do not genuflect (it would not make sense). A special lamp (typically a candle in red glass) is mounted close to the tabernacle and lit as a signal to us when He is present. For your visit, please just have a seat for now (it’s OK, really). We pray that you too will one day join us at the Eucharistic table.

“Gay marriage”

Gay Marriage

Last week, as almost everyone now knows, the Supreme Court of the United States of America fabricated a new “right” for homosexual unions to be recognized as marriage.

A Legal Fiction

Legal fictions can be useful, although this one most certainly is not. A useful fiction, for example, is the way law treats a corporation as a “person.” As such it has certain rights and responsibilities including paying taxes or being subject to suit as if it were a person distinct from the owner or owners. This facilitates commerce and is morally neutral.

“Gay marriage” is simply a new legal fiction. What constitutes marriage and morality in general has never been up to government and never will be. Ideally, government is enlightened and informed by God, the creator, and recognizes all rights flow from Him. Our founding documents acknowledge this but we have “evolved” to an enlightened view of our own making to our detriment.


  • Government long ago redefined the bond of marriage to be dissoluble. Legally marriage is a state one can enter into and exit as they wish as many times as they wish. That has also always been a fiction.
  • Government redefined life itself as something that comes into existence only when it says so (contrary to science). This allows the “termination” of life to not only be without (legal) consequences, but also to be a cherished “right.”

Built on Lies

Marriage as God created it and as it has been universally understood for millennia has not changed. This Supreme Court decision is just that, a deeply flawed and seriously harmful opinion of the narrowest majority. It is a legal construct, unfortunately divorced from reality.

The people of very few states approve of this. When put to a popular vote, with very few exceptions, “gay marriage” was defeated. In many cases however, the will of the people was overruled by their legislatures and most often by federal judges. The media ignores this fact, preferring to mislead by noting only 14 states at this point did not “allow” it. That the states who did “allow” it were forced to against their will is not mentioned.

Of special note are the Catholic justices who supported this decision: Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Their votes were a clear rejection of God, Jesus Christ and His Church. There is no wiggle room on this. This travesty passed only because both of them supported it. In the 5-4 decision, all 4 of the dissenters (Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas) are Catholic.

The Effect

There are three major effects of this:

  1. Religious freedom will be relentlessly attacked, long term. The heavy hand of the law will be used to bludgeon any who dare to publicly resist cooperation with this immoral fiction. Activists will seek to bully through intimidation, threats and whatever legal traps they can craft with great zeal.
  2. The valid role of government in fostering procreation within stable families, structured for the benefit of children, is further muddled.
  3. People who suffer with homosexual attraction are scandalized. Instead of helping them, they are increasingly told their unnatural and immoral temptations are actually completely normal, healthy and should be a source of pride. This will never result in their true happiness.

What to Expect

Beyond the long-lasting effects noted above, it is almost certain that further “evolutionary progress” will be made in the legal understanding of family and marriage:

  • marriage of brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, etc.
  • reducing the minimum age for marriage
  • polygamy is more natural than homosexuality so why limit marriage to only 2?
  • polyamory, polyandry, polygyny, polyfamilies, poly-anything-goes – why not?

Most of the arguments for “gay marriage” apply to the above. Sympathetic stories will be told, individual plights of “injustice” presented in the context of fairness and civil rights, pride parades, media support followed by corporate support and it is done.

Expect to see the process of entering into and exiting marriages, however they are defined at the moment, to be streamlined.

Many more (although not all) countries will follow in our footsteps. The UN will push harder to “recognize” this as a basic human right. Hollywood will celebrate with gay weddings appearing in most television shows beginning this fall.

Christian Response

Our respect and love for people with same sex attraction must not diminish. We will be tested in this regard, count on it. Remember too that not all people with same sex attraction support this (although many who dissent are no doubt bullied into silence).

The word “marriage” has lost its common and proper meaning. We must separate what we mean by the life-long union of one man and one woman in formation of a family from the fiction presented by the law. Words have meaning and we clearly need a new one to replace being married, getting married, marriage ceremony, marriage invitation, etc. A word is needed to accurately convey the concept given to us by God. Continuing to use the word marriage will just contribute to confusion.

Finally, we must not cooperate. This must be opposed in every way possible for the benefit of society and every person in it. This is a major setback but not a lost cause. The cause is lost only when we accept it.

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.

But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.