January 18, 2013

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Year of Faith: Jesus as our personal Savior

John F. FinkYes, we Catholics do take Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.

I wanted to make that point at the start of this column because some people seem to think that we don’t. Perhaps it’s the image they have of Catholics with rosary beads in their hands or saints’ pictures in their homes. They know that Catholics usually have a greater devotion to Mary than do most Protestants. Maybe that’s why they have the impression that Jesus has gotten lost in the shuffle.

That would be tragic, of course. Actually, every devotion in the Catholic Church must lead directly to Jesus. If it doesn’t, it’s not truly Catholic.

As Pope John Paul II wrote in his

best-selling book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, “From the beginning, Christ has been at the center of the faith and life of the Church, and also at the center of her teaching and theology.”

He also wrote, “A Marian dimension and Mariology in the Church are simply another aspect of the Christological focus.”

In other words, devotion to Mary must help us focus on Jesus Christ. I’ll say more about that later in this series of columns for the “Year of Faith” when I write about devotion to Mary.

What we Catholics believe about Jesus is summarized in both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.

In the former, we say that we believe that Jesus was God’s only Son and that he “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

The Nicene Creed, which Catholics recite every Sunday and solemnity during Mass, is a bit more technical. Composed in the fourth century, this creed affirms our belief that, “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven” and that, “For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.”

We Catholics, therefore, believe that Jesus is our personal Savior. The reason that he suffered and died was for our salvation. The goal of salvation is union with God, the eternal life of heaven, and the consummation of our happiness as human beings.

We believe, as is stated in the Acts of the Apostles, that “there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Jesus died in accordance with his Father’s will, to save us from our sins. It is now up to us to take advantage of the graces he has gained for us to complete our salvation.

Unlike some Protestants, though, Catholics do not believe that our salvation is assured once we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, which we do in baptism. We must cooperate with the graces that come from God through the Church, and live our lives in accordance with the teachings of Christ’s Church. †

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