Posts Tagged ‘catholic good works’

I received the comment below from an evangelical Christian who keeps a website on the internet with the aim to evangelize and convert  Catholics to the ‘light’ and the true Christian faith. Assuming that I am not the only one who sometimes is asked these questions, I decided to post my reply here in the hope that it may be useful to other Catholics who find themselves in the same situation:

Dear Helen
Thank God, Catholics do believe in Jesus, as well as the wholesome truths of the Scriptures summarized in the creeds, and other blessed truths. For that I truly thank God. However, speaking from personal experience, and from my correspondence and discussion with hundreds of Catholics, many do not trust wholeheartedly and solely in Christ for salvation. By that I mean that they trust in Christ as well as seek help from Mary, and endeavor to do good works to merit grace and eternal life, as well as do penance to make satisfaction for sin. But the Bible teaches that there is no other name but the name of Jesus by which we must be saved, and that we are saved by grace, through faith, not of our works, but as a gift of God, and that the blood of Jesus cleanses his people from all sin.

Helen, may I ask you, do you rely solely and totally on Christ for your salvation? Do you seek to live a godly life to merit grace?

Dear brother in Christ,

As I stated in my previous message, the Catholic Church teaches that Salvation is a gift of God which we receive by his grace alone. Please, for more thoughts on Salvation click  here. Unfortunately,  you still seem to sustain some rather erroneous ideas on Catholicism which I am hoping to be able to clarify for you.

Many non-Catholics assume that Catholics give too much importance to good works because they rely on them for their salvation, which could not be further from the truth. In fact, most protestants fail to appreciate what  ‘Good Works’  (which include prayer, reading the scriptures and not only charitable actions) really represent. The Catholic definition of Good Works does not consist of the Works of the Law (Mosaic Law) condemned by Paul in his Epistles, such as in Romans 3:20, but  rather the outer expression of an inner faith which S. Paul himself  praised, as we will see below.
In fact, the Catholic Church teaches that Salvation is a free gift from God and that no effort of our own can make us  earn it. Rather, as it is stated in the document «All Salvation Comes from Christ», by Pope John Paul II,  the Church maintains  “that the way of salvation always passes through Christ, and therefore the Church and her missionaries have the task of making him known and loved in every time, place and culture.  Apart from Christ “there is no salvation.” As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin at the very start of the apostolic preaching: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).
However, the Catholic Church teaches that true life in Christ has to reflect in actions what one believes internally, so that  as a true disciple one is recognized them by their fruits ( cf. Matt.7,16). But what are our fruits, if not our way of life and actions? For this reason, I belive the Catholic Church outlines the virtues for a life in the Spirit:

1803 “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”62
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.
The goal of a virtuous life is to become like* God.63 ( *holy like God)
Therefore, the Church defines the Four Cardinal Virtues ( Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance) as essential for life in Christ,  as well as the Great Theological Virtues and Graces ( Faith, Hope and *Charity [*which is love])
Regarding Charity the Church teaches:   ( http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a7.htm )
1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.96 By loving his own “to the end,”97 he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”98
1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”99
1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”100 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.101
The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”102
1826 “If I . . . have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.”103 Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”104
1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”;105 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.
1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who “first loved us”:106
These teachings reflect what Scriptures teach, for instance,  in Matthew 25:31-46  as well as other passages. However, my point with this letter is to clarify that the Church indeed teaches that Salvation is a free gift of God which we receive by grace. The Cathechism says in paragraph 1996 that “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. (Cf. Jn 1:12-18; 17:3; Rom 8:14-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4).
Therefore, it is wrong to state that Catholics believe that they can earn Salvation through their good works – as we see once again in paragraph 2005 of the Cathechism – “Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.(Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.) However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:20).
Lastly, since grace comes first, it is the protestant doctrine of Salvation through Faith Alone which is wrong, not the Catholic teaching:

Faith is a grace

153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “my Father who is in heaven”.24 Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”(Catechism of the Catholic Church).

As for Mary; she is the Mother of Christ and His first true disciple. She leads those to recourse to her – as she did at the wedding feast in Canaan: “do whatever He tells you” – to Christ,  never to herself. Mary is a creature who had favor with God, who received His graces and said Yes to His divine plan. Catholics honor her; but know that only God saves.

971All generations will call me blessed“: “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.”515 The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.”516 The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.517
972 After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,”518 the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.
In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.519
973 By pronouncing her “fiat” at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.
974 The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.
975 “We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ” (Paul VI, CPG § 15).
May God Bless you,

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