Notes from a Friar: Pope Francis Said What?

You may recall Pope Francis’ statement a couple of years ago concerning God’s love. First, the pope said: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! Even the atheists. Everyone!” That statement shook a lot of people up. And it is true: the Church has always taught that Jesus died and redeemed all of God’s children. But a lot of people drew several incorrect conclusions: “Well, if atheists are redeemed, it really doesn’t matter what we do, right? We’re home free.”

No, sorry, that is not only incorrect, but that’s not what Pope Francis meant or said. The pope used the word redeemed and not justified. Only God can redeem, and that redemption takes place because of Jesus’ death on the cross. No human can redeem himself. Only through Jesus do we have a chance at salvation. That means everyone—including atheists—have the opportunity to reach a perfect union with God.

God’s Map

There are two aspects to the question of salvation. One is God’s role (which is what Pope Francis was talking about), but the other is our role. That role is our response to God and his plan for salvation, which is why Jesus taught as he did in the Gospels. He did this not just by words and instructions, but also by his own lived example.

The Gospels are God’s map—our GPS, if you will—as we all walk our pilgrimage on this earth. God, in fact, says to every person, “Come to me.” But only we, given our free will, can say “Yes, God, here I come.” It is amazing that some humans say no to God. He will not force anyone, no matter how much he wants us with him.

Achieving Salvation

Even though we must say yes, the Lord is abundant with grace to help us. The truth is that if anyone is not saved, it is his fault and not God’s.

Another important factor is that God alone understands perfectly the circumstances of everyone’s life. We have to admit that we are truly blessed to have been given the gift of faith. But imagine someone who, through no fault of his/her own, doesn’t know who God is. Consider a native in central New Guinea. God will not demand something of someone who is incapable of meeting that condition.

What about a person raised in an environment where he/she has been influenced away from God, but who still chooses to have faith? God knows it is a great responsibility to believe and follow the Gospels of Jesus. That’s why it is unchristian and imprudent for some of our brothers and sisters in faith to determine who is saved and who is not. That’s why the Church has never said that any particular person is in hell. A person’s response to God can only be known by God. He alone knows every human heart.

And that is why bishops of Vatican II said so wisely in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their own actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation” (847).

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2 thoughts on “Notes from a Friar: Pope Francis Said What?”

  1. Thank God! I was born a Catholic, became a Protestant and then recently returned to the Church. My priest makes certain statements that have led me to believe we can lose our salvation if we do not behave correctly. But in my mind this makes no sense. Why would Jesus have died if we could one day believe in Him and repent of our sins, then the next day fight hard not to sin and sin anyway, knowing we would lose our salvation? God knows none of us, despite how deeply we believe and accept Him into our hearts, has the power to remain sinless the rest of our human existence in this world.

    1. God knows this which is why we are given the gift of confession and the sacraments.The Bible speaks of man returning to sin like a dog returns to its vomit. Jesus tells the churches in Revelation that He will count them as enemies if they do not turn from their sin and to the woman caught in adultery He says” go and sin no more”.We are weak and the Lord knows this. But the crown is given to he who overcomes.For we fight not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. To help us in our struggle we are given prayer, fasting,Scripture and the Sacraments.The strongest defense is she whom the enemy was never able to defeat. The “woman” of Genesis. The “woman” clothed with the sun.The “woman” for whom the first miracle at Cana was done. The “woman” who was given us as mother at the foot of the cross. Mary is our strongest defense in this battle against sin and the rosary is the strongest prayer because our salvation began with the words “Hail, Full of grace.The Lord is with thee “.With these words of the angel, God became man in Mary, just as He wants to live in us completely.

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