Sunday, March 02, 2003

The Lord and His Mercy

I have been giving the following verse some thought:

First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. - 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NAB)

If one reads the NAB notes on these verses, they see that it states the following : This marked insistence that the liturgical prayer of the community concern itself with the needs of all, whether Christian or not, and especially of those in authority, may imply that a disposition existed at Ephesus to refuse prayer for pagans. In actuality, such prayer aids the community to achieve peaceful relationships with non-Christians (1 Tim 2:2) and contributes to salvation, since it derives its value from the presence within the community of Christ, who is the one and only savior of all (1 Tim 2:3-6). The vital apostolic mission to the Gentiles (1 Tim 2:7) reflects Christ's purpose of universal salvation.

Now, compare that verse with the phrase There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.

Now, there is no doubt that I believe both the Scriptures and this belief issued by the Catholic Church. However, how do the two go together? According to the Catechism, our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters are members of the Catholic Church, albeit separated, by baptism. That they contain the Truth, though in various phases of incompleteness, is evident by their fruits. So I'm not so much worried about them as I am about those who are not Christian.

Which is where Paul's comments to Timothy come into play. Are we as Catholics, responsible for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus Christ? Are we to pray for them, that God might have mercy on them and judge them based not on their ignorance, but on our own belief, given vicariously on their behalf?

I think, to be Catholic, is a greater burden than to not be Catholic. Finding ourselves in the Church established by Christ on Pentecost is a great honor, it is also a great responsibility. I don't say this out of pride, I say this out of concern for both myself and other Catholics. Are we going to be held to a higher standard come judgement day? The answer may very well be "Yes".

How so?

Take the parable of the servants and the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. There are three servants given talents. One was given five, one two and one one talent. What if the one given the largest sum of money is the Catholic Church? Do we not have a greater responsibility then, as opposed to the ones that have less?

Luke 12:48 (RSV) - Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required...

I look at the Catholic Church and I see that we have been given much. I have no doubt then that much is required of us. I believe it is our duty to pray for those who do not know Jesus Christ, and those who may never have that opportunity. Can we afford to fail them, and if we should not fail them, does failing them also mean we have failed ourselves and more importantly, failed God?

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