We are not about saving our souls alone

May 29, 2017

 

One of the powerful teachings of Jesus is that we must not assume our task is to stand alone in front of the judgement seat of God. We have the mandate to make sure others come to the Kingdom of God because of us. In fact, Jesus warns against anything that implies we can stand there alone.

 

It is a powerful call that we have and it is part of our mission to evangelize.

 

Many times in traditional Catholic literature of the Twentieth Century, we see the teaching of doing what we can to go to Heaven, and so morality is based on my going there. The thought of evangelizing people was just not really a common Catholic thought. Evangelizing was something Protestants did. At fifty-eight years old, I remember well how evangelizing was just not a Catholic "thing" in the twentieth century. However, the saints in previous centuries warned vehemently against that attitude. 

 

Be aware of the idea that your mission is to get you into Heaven or to keep yourself out of Hell. It is to be light to the world, salt of the Earth in your community. Your parish is about leading people out of sin and into eternal life. Obviously, as Cardinal John O'Connor used to say, that mission begins first in our own salvation. However, it cannot stop there. None of our Catholic faith is about you going to Heaven alone, or you not going to Hell. It is all about being the sign of the presence of God so that others may join you and the rest of us on the journey. If you ignore that vocation and follow your own desires, then you are in sin and have rejected your vocation to be part of Christ's mission of salvation to the world. That is where we get into the discussion of Heaven and Hell. Remember,  you were baptized into Christ's role of priest, prophet and king. 

 

This is why I am not a fan of a lot of twentieth century traditionalist Catholic catechesis and literature mostly from the 1950’s and beyond. (That does not mean I am a fan of the fruits and flowers stuff either.) There seemed to be too much of a focus on an individual going to Heaven and a morality for that individual going to Heaven. That is antithetical to the rest of previous Catholic teaching.

 

St. Alphonsus Liguori, (18th Century) for example, warned priests that if they were focused on their own salvation alone and not on those to whom they minister, they were wasting their time. They were just as condemned as if they had no focus on their own or anyone else’s salvation. The same can be said for all Catholics. We have a vocation to witness to our faith and help others toward their salvation too. 

 

Let me give you an example. Say you are eighteen years old, male and you are with a group of friends. You are all students in the local college and are out on a Saturday night enjoying the new college town where you are studying. There is a local district that has some bars and some strip joints. One of your friends puts in the option of going to the strip joint.

 

Traditional Catholic teaching that is focused on keeping you out Hell would say that you have to say no because it is a sin and you must avoid sin. That is true, but not the complete truth.

 

You must not go in because not only is it a sin, not only must you avoid sin, you must also teach others about sin and avoiding it for their salvation. You do this not by an academic exposition of the theology of the sinfulness of strip bars. You do it simply by saying no, you choose not to go and meet up with them tomorrow. That is your witness and the way you are preaching your truth. They will figure out the reason is that you really take seriously your Catholic faith. Chances are some or even all of the group will choose not to go because of your decision. Meanwhile, your witness as a Catholic is to say no, not just because it is a sin for you, but if you do go in, then you also encouraged the others in that same sin. You did not act directly but indirectly, but, you were an enabler in their committing sin, which is also a sin. So the reason you cannot go in there is not just because it is a sin, but because you are leading others into sin. Remember, your mission is not only the salvation of your soul, but the salvation of others souls by witnessing to the truth of Christ.

 

This is why it is important to beware of those who will teach your mission is to get you into Heaven. It is more than that, it is a mission to be witnesses to Christ and to help lead others into Heaven as well.

 

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