Monday, May 2, 2011

There is no salvation outside the Church. A sermon on Divine Mercy, May 1st

Sunday of Divine Mercy
May 1st, 2011
John 20:19-31

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

On this, the feast of Divine Mercy, we consider the infinite riches of the love and mercy of God. Jesus is the incarnation of Divine Mercy – he is Divine Mercy in his very person. It is not simply that Christ our Savior brings the mercy of God to us, but he is that very mercy itself.
The Lord does not offer Divine Mercy to us as a thing, but rather as himself – for he opened his own Heart upon the Cross for us: Oh Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you!

Jesus is the Divine Mercy and he has come in order that all might find life in him, through believing in his Name. But we might put this another way: If Jesus is the Divine Mercy, then this entails that there is no other mercy to be found, no other salvation, outside of Jesus Christ. There is no other Savior and no other Salvation than Christ our God. There is no other name by which any may be saved, than the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
These statements are not always popular in the modern world, nor even (sadly) in the modern Church. When presented with the fact that salvation is through Christ alone and through no other, there is a temptation to have a negative reaction. Some might think, “Why should salvation be limited to Christ? Why do people have to believe in Christ to be saved? If God is merciful, why does he limit his mercy by the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”
The Church has always considered such sentiments to the expression of a most profound ingratitude. It is not at all the case that Divine Mercy was open to people through all means before Christ and then, after he came, this Mercy was limited to Christianity – not at all! Rather, outside of Christ and his Church there has never been any opportunity for salvation – separated from Christ, there is no Divine Mercy!

Because Jesus is Divine Mercy itself, there is no other mercy to be found other than that which is given us in Christ our Savior. But the good Lord did not desire simply to come once into the world as Divine Mercy, but he wanted this Mercy to be shared with all people of all times and all places. To this end, Christ established the Church, which is his own Mystical Body.
As there is no salvation outside of Christ, so too there is no salvation outside his Church – for how can the Lord be separated from his Church? But again, this ought not to be thought of as limiting the Divine Mercy – quite the contrary, it is through the Church that the infinite riches of the mercies of God are spread throughout the earth. The Church is the vehicle and instrument of Divine Mercy, she is the universal sacrament of salvation!

The Lord appeared to his apostles and, breathing upon them said, Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. With these words, our Savior established the salvific role of the Church and, especially, the sacrament of confession.
Sometimes people will ask, “Why do I have to go to a priest to have my sins forgiven?” This is a horrible way of thinking about the Divine Mercy! We should rather say, “What a gift that my sins can be forgiven through the sacrament of confession!” Rather than thinking of forgiveness as being limited by reconciliation, we should recognize that the sacrament is the great means of forgiveness. It is a wonder and a grace that our sins can be forgiven at all – who are we to reject the means of salvation?

This is not to say that only Catholics can be saved – not at all! However, if ever anyone is saved, it is always through the Church and through Christ. If a Buddhist is saved, he is not saved through Buddhism but through the Catholic Church. If a Muslim is saved, he is saved through Christ and his Church. The Koran has never brought salvation to the world, and the Hindu gods have never saved anyone – Christ alone is our Savior, he alone is our Salvation!
Only through at least a mysterious and unseen participation in the Church can any hope to find salvation. Outside the Church, there is no salvation – but it is possible for many who are not visibly united with the Church to participate in her saving work.

Our point is this: Salvation is in Christ through his Church, why would we ever look anywhere else? Why look to the world for consolation and peace? It is Christ alone who can give you peace, he alone is your joy! Why look to the world? There is no mercy for you there!
Likewise, why look to the religions of the east? Why dabble in things like yoga, zen, and eastern meditation? There you will find no mercy! The eastern religions have no salvation to offer you!
Rather, we look to Christ, to him who is the Divine Mercy. We run to his Sacred Heart, wherein we will find the path to life everlasting.