Thursday of the 3rd Week of Advent
“…but by refusing baptism from him the Pharisees and the lawyers had thwarted what God had in mind for them.”
Despite John’s momentary doubts about Jesus as the Messiah in yesterday’s gospel, Jesus poured out praise upon him and acknowledged John as the forerunner, which scripture has indicated as a ‘preparer of the way’. This forerunner tried to inculcate in the people a true consciousness of sin and the need for repentance in order to fully receive the gift of salvation. However, for the Pharisees and scribes who rejected John’s admonition for repentance, the rejection goes beyond their distrust in John’s ministry and the criticism of his sermons. It signifies their rejection of God’s salvific plan for mankind. Yet by doing so, there is no way they could frustrate God’s purpose, but merely violate His counsel for themselves and bring about their own condemnation. The key word here is ‘for themselves’; as even though they refused God’s plan for blessings of forgiveness and salvation, they can never thwart God’s divine counsel of salvation for the rest of humanity, as the great purpose goes on and on. Hence, it could be true to say that salvation is offered to all, but yet not all will be saved. In this aspect, it brings to mind the Catholic doctrine of ‘no salvation outside the church’ which I recently heard in one of the RCIA sessions I attended as a sponsor.
At first glance, it might appear as though the doctrine is appealing for the incorporation of oneself as a member of the church, especially in the journey of the RCIA. However, its teaching about the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation is widely misunderstood over the course of history and hence specifically clarified and affirmed in CCC 846. Quoting the passage written by the Holy Office in 1949 in response to the erroneous teaching by Fr. Leonard Feeney, it states that “Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing. However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance, God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.” It appears that those who live in ignorance of the true religion should not be subjected to any guilt in the eyes of the Lord. Then again, who are we to set the limits to this ignorance, taking into consideration the differences in people and the environment that they have been exposed to?
That being said, our church has historically recognized the means through which salvation is offered through Christ — which are via baptism, repentance and the Eucharist. Considering these means, it is without doubt that these sacraments have to be administered through the Church by the validly ordained. Even though the elements of truth can be found elsewhere, the Catholic Church contains the fullness of Christ’s truth that is necessary for salvation. The imperfect communion with the universal church may be no sinful fault of anyone, but let us remember not to inflict self-separation from salvation like the Pharisees and scribes.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Dylan Tan)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you would teach us to yield ourselves to your spirit as we pray for the salvation of those who do not know you. Teach us to place our trust in you to guide us through the challenges in life. May you dwell within us and make us sensitive to your promptings in leading everyone towards the salvation you offered. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for your endless mercy and compassion, causing Your Son to die for the sins of mankind in order for us to reconcile with You. We are utterly undeserving and unworthy, and we can only praise and glorify you in return.
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