As you may have been able to discern via this blog over the last 3+ years, I have had a keen interest in the Protestant doctrine of “Salvation by Faith Alone” compared to the Catholic view of salvation. The differences are found in answers to the question: “Have you been saved?” Devoted Protestants who have been “re-born” or who have “a personal relationship with Jesus” will say “yes” because they believe they have the lone requirement, which is the gift of faith in Jesus. Devoted Catholics, on the other hand, would be perplexed by the question and would not be able to answer it “yes” or “no.” That is because they believe that they will not know if they are saved until after they die and God renders His judgement on the state of their soul. Why is it that these two Christian groups differ on this important question? I would like to give you my perspective on this.
I believe that “Faith Alone” could be a legitimate doctrine if the word “faith” in this context is carefully and authentically defined. Is it faith that is held deep in one’s heart, or is it faith that is only found on the tongue and lips? Protestants will attach the word “works” to their argument. In other words, they say that salvation does not depend on our doing good works. Good works, such as visiting the sick and imprisoned, donating money to or raising money for charitable causes, and assisting the poor and homeless with their day-to-day needs are examples of things that may result from one having faith, but, in the Protestant view, they are not required for salvation. In addition, “works of the law,” that is actions that we must perform by church law, are also not required because they might cause a person to boast about it, and such boasting is condemned in Scripture. A Catholic would agree that such boasting is wrong.
So where does that leave us? What does it mean to have faith that is deep in one’s heart and not just on the tongue and the lips. First, if one has such deep faith, then he/she would practice it with humility. i.e., no boasting. Let God see it but don’t practice your faith so that you want it to be obvious to others. The need for true humility is found all over Scripture. Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. (Mat 6:3). Second, in the Catholic Church, if one has deep faith, he/she will have a burning desire to receive the sacraments frequently, particularly Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Church recognizes this and has set absolute minimums as far as actions regarding these sacraments is concerned. Catholics must go to Confession at least once a year and must go to Mass, presumably to receive the Eucharist, on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. The absolute minimum. But do it with humility and not so that you can boast about it.
These sacraments, Reconciliation and the Eucharist, are available in the Catholic Church every day. I believe that true faith … faith held deep in one’s heart … would be evidenced by sincere and humble reception of these two sacraments as often as possible. They were instituted by Christ Himself to give us grace … the sanctifying grace required for salvation. Do it in secret. Don’t do it in order to be able to say you did it. And don’t let it be known. Practice humility. This is the personal relationship that Jesus wants with us. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:54). Even if you do these things, a humble person will still not know if he/she will be saved until it is revealed to all by God on the day of judgement.