by Fr Richard Heilman | February 13, 2020 11:24 pm
I’ve Earned My Place in Heaven
By Brother Boltoph OSB
“I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
These words spoken by Michael Bloomberg seem to echo the sentiments of many, including Catholics. One only need attend a Catholic funeral to hear the affirmation that the deceased is in heaven. In effect, we canonize those we love to ameliorate the grief we feel at their loss. That grief is real; it is sentient, and it is, for a time, lasting. But we cannot earn our way to heaven and the Church has never taught that.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologiae writes, “You called me; you cried aloud to me; you broke my barrier of deafness. You shone upon me; your radiance enveloped me; you put my blindness to flight”. Further he writes, “you have forgiven me such great sins” and “entry into the “blessed country” of heaven is the culmination of Christian salvation.” The process of gradual transformation, continues until this time Scripture tell us that there is none righteous, no not one. Not one. Not you, not me, not your priest. Not one. Salvation is a process; it is a continual process; a journey. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Philipians writes, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Further in the same passage he writes, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Salvation is a work in process. It is a struggle, the rewards of which are promised to those who have pressed toward the mark and have finished the race. It is not, as Michael Bloomberg implies, the culmination of one single act. It is the culmination of a life lived in pursuit of that which Christ has called us.
Salvation begins with conversion and initiates the process of sanctification and justification. The catechism tells us that “The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism: But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself”.
Grafted into the vine which is himself. A graft, on its own, cannot survive. It must be fed by the Life into which it is grafted. Through no work of its own may it survive or attain its own end. It is supported by that life-giving source to which it has been attached. But it is solely dependent upon that source which is the Church, entrusted with the nourishment of that graft. It is by and through the Church that we attain unto salvation. It is by and through the Deposit of the Faith that we have the HOPE of salvation. It is the vine that sustains us. It is that Vine that guides, nurtures, and sustain us in that pursuit of the Beatific vision that St. Paul speaks of.
Faith without works is dead. In and of ourselves cannot get to heaven and this is what Mr. Bloomberg fails to understand. Faith and works go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other; they are inextricably tied together. And works include thoughts and feelings. Works are not just physical. Our thoughts guide our actions and our perceptions. If we are not willing to abandon our thoughts and feelings to our faith, we err. We derail ourselves in the process of justification and sanctification. One only need look to the example of Abraham and Isaac to prove this point Abraham’s faith guide his action. In the face of the most unimaginable command he did the unthinkable.
We can learn a lesson from Abraham. He worked through his justification and sanctification time and time again. and no single act secured either one for him. It was for him, as it is for us, a continual process; a journey. And in that journey we are responsible for not only for our thoughts but our actions. Both contribute to our salvation; both determine our eternal destiny.
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