April 17, 2009

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Basic Catholicism: Jesus as personal Savior

John F. Fink(10th in a series of columns)

Yes, 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 is the image they have of Catholics with rosary beads or saints’ medals. They know that Catholics (and members of Orthodox Churches) often have a greater devotion to Mary than do Protestants. Maybe that is why they have the impression that Jesus can get lost in the shuffle.

Actually, every devotion in the Catholic Church must lead directly to Jesus or it is 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.”

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. 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 during Mass, is a bit more technical. Composed in the fourth century, this creed affirms that we believe in “one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, … one in being with the Father. Through him all things were made.”

Then come the parts that pertain to Jesus as Savior. We say that we believe that “for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” The rest of the Nicene Creed is similar to the Apostles Creed.

We Catholics, therefore, believe that Jesus is our personal Savior, and that the reason he suffered and died was for our salvation. The goal of salvation is union with God. 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, Catholics do not believe that our salvation is assured once we accept Jesus as our personal Savior. 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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