Jul
10
2017

“I am working out my Salvation with fear and trembling with hopeful promises of Christ”

By Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh

Is there assurance we will all get to heaven? Let’s begin this discussion with the obvious of what we know. We are certain and assured that Jesus gave his life and was crucified and died on that Cross and entered into heaven for the purpose of standing before God on our behalf. But does that mean there is no process needed for our own participation to gain heaven? Is it enough to accept Jesus and therefore we will be assured of a place in Heaven? Hmm. As Catholics, we lean more toward being free of our sins as an assurance of heaven. So what is the right call here; we are all sinners, so can we be guaranteed a spot in heaven? “If I go to Church every Sunday and do the best I can to be a good person; isn’t that enough to warrant going to heaven when I die?”

In Scripture, we learn that one’s final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. As Jesus Himself says: “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13; cf. 25: 31-46). In other words, if we die in the state of grace and friendship with God we will go to heaven. Sounds easy right? Hardly.

I think the answer involves a little more work with God. It would seem logical to me that there is no guarantee of a spot in heaven by just being a good person and having perfect church attendance. If we look at Scripture, the guarantee to enter heaven requires several commitments on our part and one of the most important ones is that we develop a daily personal relationship with Jesus and make a difference for all. In other words, it seems to me our goal should be to bring heaven to earth. Remember the prayer taught by Jesus Himself.

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

“In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him ‘they shall reign forever and ever” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1029).

The church is not just a building to show up to on Sundays. The church is the place we attend to be part of Christ’s Body. The point of going is not to add up points with God. It should come from a place of wanting to be one with God, wanting to develop a deeper relationship with God. “Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ” (CCC,1021).

What do we do to reach the most desirable purpose of our lives; to be in heaven when we die?  “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ. They are like God forever, for they ‘see Him as He is,’ face to face” (CCC, 1023).

One certainty we have is that participating in the sacraments is a sure way to obtain grace and oneness with God. It’s not enough to participate in the sacraments alone however; “If any one says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). Paul speaks to the Philippians saying “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

It would then seem we need to call upon God for the grace to be kind and loving to others in every step we take in our lives. This means every person we come in contact with, whether it’s for a minute or for a lifetime; we need to reach inside ourselves and find a place of love for everyone. Like I said, it’s not easy. We don’t have to agree or even like everyone, we just have to love each other accepting each person has their own path towards God. Looking at our daily lives and our need for grace and finding resolution in our hearts to keep a commitment to have a meaningful relationship with God would seem to me the only place to have assurance in our heavenly reward. The answer lies in the Nicene Creed. It is made clear in those words. “With the Father and Son He is worshipped and glorified. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

rsz_1cathyCatherine Mendenhall-Baugh (Cathy) completed her education at the University of Nebraska majoring in Special Education and minoring in English Literature and now works in the insurance industry. A mother and a grandmother, Cathy grew up in a large Catholic family and as spent the last 30 years as a caregiver for her husband, Jack. A writer for Tuscany Press, she is also working on several longer writing projects.
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