Our guest blogger today is Jim Van Vurst, OFM, who co-writes Friar Jack’s E-spirations.
You may recall Pope Francis’ statement this past May 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.
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.
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Image: CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters