I am taking a catechism class at church. We are reading Catholic Christianity by Kreeft which is an explanation of the Catechism. I have only gotten through the first chapter, but so far I am really impressed. I am especially impressed and excited about his take on salvation theology. You see, I have this debate always going on in my head. I was raised Protestant. I was taught doctrine of the Protestant faith for the first 18 years of my life. I can't just shake that off. I know to the depths of my soul that the Catholic faith is true, but I can just forget 18 years of Protestant education. So when I stumble across something that the two can agree on rather than debate about, I find a little peace.
In the Baptist church I was raised in, you are saved when you pray a special, simple prayer. Basically, you ask God for forgiveness for the way you have been living your life and you invite Jesus to live in your heart. By praying this prayer, you acknowledge that you believe in Jesus and that he wants to have a relationship with you. By inviting Him into your heart, you are engaging Him in that relationship and thus you gain salvation. It is a very simple process and also a very life changing process.
The Catholic Faith doesn't make it quite that plain and simple. But according to Kreeft, the Catechism does explain a very similar process. Faith is given to us by God. It is handed down to us through the Church. God places the desire for faith in us through the Holy Spirit. We have a choice. We can either accept the faith and open the door to our soul and invite God in our lives, or we can reject it. When we open the door and let God into our soul, we are choosing to act on the Faith. Salvation is the presence of God in our soul. So by acting on the Faith and allowing God into our soul, we gain salvation.
So, as you can see, the Protestants and Catholics agree here. God must be present in our hearts/soul in order for us to gain salvation. Now there are several other points about salvation that Catholics and Protestants can debate, but I am not going to go into those in this blog. I would like to savor this little bit of peace for right now.
There are several things that Catholics can learn from Protestants. One is the process they use to become saved. They have a conversion experience. They give Jesus their broken lives, broken families, broken friendships, and broken hearts. And they allow Jesus to work in them. They allow Him to change them. They trust Him to fix the wrong in their lives so they might be able to walk closer with Him. They allow Jesus to use them. They allow Jesus to reign in their soul.
When I was five, I prayed the special, simple prayer. I didn't really have anything broken inside me yet, but I know I was changed. Jesus did engage me in a personal relationship on that day. As I grew up, I sought after Him. I learned more about Him. I prayed to Him. I tried to be the person He wanted me to be. The more I sought after Him, the more strained my relationship with the Baptist church became. And then He led me out door of the Baptist church and into the door of a Catholic church which was the last place I thought I would ever be. But I followed Him. And when I finally got there and understood what was going on in the Mass- not just with my intellect, but with my spirit, I was so humbled. All these years, I was handing Jesus my heart. I was giving him my everything. I even went so far as to leave the faith of my family and friends to go to this strange church. And when I first got there, I was sure that Jesus was nuts. Why was I at a Catholic Mass? But then I looked at the sacrifice on the altar, and I finally understood what Jesus was doing for me. All these years, I had been handing Jesus my heart, and up there on the altar, Jesus was handing me His. My hunger for the Eucharist began on that day.
Naturally, one of the first books I bought when I decided to convert was a book on Eucharistic miracles. I wanted to know more about the Eucharist. The other day, I was re-reading it and this one miracle really struck a chord. In the 8th century in Lanciano, Italy, the blessed sacrament actually became a piece of flesh and the wine became real blood. This miracle has been preserved and is still on display today. In the seventies, they ran some tests on the preserved flesh and found that it was from the human heart.
The invitation for Jesus to live in our hearts is not one sided. Just as the three persons in the trinity completely give themselves over to each other, Jesus desires to give Himself to us and hopes we have the same desire to give ourselves to Him. Yes, we should invite Him into our hearts. We should invite Him to reign in our souls, but He is offering us something too. He is offering us His heart. His perfect heart that He sacrificed on the cross. The heart that stopped beating for our sin. The heart that rose from the dead and gained salvation for mankind. He gives us His heart in the Eucharist and He hopes that we will come to the table and meet Him there. And that we will share in His gift, be swept up in His love and allow Him to reign in our souls. In exchange for our hearts, He offers us His.
It is my greatest desire that I live long enough to die to my humanity and allow Jesus to completely reign in my soul. When I prayed that special, simple prayer all those years ago, a process began. The prayer I prayed embraced my justification before the Lord and it started my sanctification. It started the life-long conversion process that is leading me to my God. In order to get me there, Jesus is giving me His heart. He is leading the way. He is holding my hand and sometimes carrying me on the dark and stormy ill traveled road. And when I get to the end of that road and stand before the Father, it is my hope that He will not see me. That my life will have been one where I died to my humanity and allowed Christ to live in me and through me. May the Father see His Son who has dressed me in His salvation and reigned in my soul.