If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough however many ask for his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound. Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ.
Let me put the question: is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their message to the ends of the world.
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.
Last night, I came across a query by a catechumen on a discussion forum asking about the sacrament of Baptism. This catechumen read or heard that there are those who die without being baptised, but because they died for and with Christ, they received the baptism of blood, which bears about the fruits of baptism without being a sacrament. He also read that for catechumens who die before their baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament (CCC 1258, 1259).
And then he asks: does this mean we do not need to go through baptism and can still be assured of salvation?
It is an interesting question, is it not? And certainly a good number of us do believe that people can be assured of salvation without baptism… otherwise we would most definitely have stepped up our efforts to bring more non-Christians to the faith, the way our Protestant brothers and sisters have been doing. However, our Protestant brothers and sisters’ fervour is definitely something that we Catholics are lacking. For as much as we believe in interfaith dialogue, we can’t say that for sure that our non-Christian brothers and sisters, who have not been baptised, are assured of salvation, can we?
This is because “the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptised are “reborn of water and spirit” (CCC 1257)
This is something that we, as Catholics, should start remembering – that we don’t know of any other way that a person is assured salvation, unless he or she is baptised. I am sure that you want to see, at the very least, your loved ones with you in heaven. Given the readings of the past week, of the necessity of us bearing witness when we see the writing on the wall, and our ability to understand and interpret it, it then falls onto our shoulders as Christians, to bring this good news to our non-Christian family members and friends, and work towards their eternal salvation by providing them the motivation to get baptised and be “reborn of water and spirit”.
We know that no one can get into heaven unless they receive help from Jesus, and our non-Christian family members and friends won’t ask Jesus’ help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him… and they will not hear of him unless we preach the good news of salvation to them. Who better than us, who already know them, who they already trust, and who have so much contact with them?
Each Christian is expected to be a disciple of Christ, one who imitates his teacher. Our Teacher spent his life saving people from eternal damnation, we too are expected to do the same, to be “fishers of men”. Let us start where we are. Think of one non-Christian that you are close to, and work towards seeing him or her getting baptised.
This coming Advent and preparation for Christmas is an excellent opportunity to introduce a non-Christian family member or friend to the meaning of Christmas – the Incarnation of God as man. Start from here, and imitate our Teacher in the work of saving souls.
Dear Lord, grant us the courage to share the Good News with our non-Catholic family member / friend [insert name]. We pray that your Holy Spirit will go before us and open the heart and mind of [insert name] that s/he may receive the Word that we share joyfully. Amen.
Give Thanks to the Lord for: The season of sharing Christ with others.