Love and Salvation
What, does it really take to be saved? This is the one and only question you MUST get right in life. Protestants will say it's easy - all you have to do is "believe", and God will take care of the rest. That obviously isn't true, as any rational human being deep down knows it takes more than that. Catholics will say you must also die in the state of grace. This is true, but there seems to be a vagueness in the minds of many as to what that actually means and entails. Many seem to think as long as they confess all their serious sins to a priest, they're in the state of grace. Maybe, maybe not; depends on one's disposition. The Sacrament of Penance does not work like a car wash.
Ultimately salvation rests on Charity - loving God above all things.
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mk. 12:30-31
“If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”- 1 Cor. 13:1-3
Does this contradict the Catholic beliefs about the “state of grace” and the sacraments? Absolutely not.
The state of grace is the being in the state of Sanctifying Grace, and Sanctifying Grace infuses the divine virtues of faith, hope and CHARITY. The sacraments bestow Sanctifying Grace on those that do not hinder it.
Note that last part "on those that do not hinder it". The wrong disposition hinders it. The wrong dispositions include lack of an absolute, firm resolve never to commit the sin again, and to do whatever it takes avoid falling into that sin again. The Sacrament of Penance cannot be "Plan B" when you fall into a difficult situation.
The proper dispositions must not be taken for granted, as we cannot achieve them by our own power; we must have the help of Actual Grace, which God does not owe to us.
How does faith and divine revelation fit into this picture? Their purpose is to lead us to Charity. We can know God to a certain extent through the natural light of reason, from created things. But this knowledge is limited. We need more. This is why God revealed certain things that we might know Him more clearly, and thus love Him. You cannot love one you do not know. Faith and hope lead the way, but they are dead and useless if they do not bring us to charity.
What about works - the keeping of the Commandments?
If you love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15
Catholics will be familiar with the Act of Contrition; they will say "Well, if you can't get to confession, it's enough to pray the Act of Contrition. Again, maybe, maybe not. Depends of disposition. Just like the Sacrament of Penance, a firm resolution to never commit the sin again is necessary, along with and additional one: Perfect Contrition - that is, contrition springing from Charity. For justification outside of the Sacraments of Baptism or Penance there you must love God above all things, and be sorry for your sins PRINCIPALLY because they offend Him. Again, these dispositions must not be taken for granted, as we cannot achieve them by our own power; we must have the help of Actual Grace, which God does not owe to us.
But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins. – 1 Pet. 4:8
Imperfect Contrition, in which the person is sorry principally out of fear of hell, is adequate with the Sacrament of Penance, because the sacrament bestows sanctifying grace, which infuses charity.
Charity is that one thing without which no one can be saved. Ignorance may excuse many things, if that ignorance be invincible. But no amount of ignorance excuses one from loving God above all things. Conversely, no one is excluded from salvation that loves God above all things.
“The law of divine love is the standard for all human actions. It is evident that not all are able to labor at learning and for that reason Christ has given a short law. Everyone can know this law and no one may be excused from observing it because of ignorance. This is the law of divine love. As scripture says, The Lord will quickly execute sentence upon the earth." - St. Thomas Aquinas
Love of neighbor.
We have focused on the direct love of God, and now let us consider that equally essential Second Commandment:
"And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mk. 12:31
Charity also requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We must have a hope and solicitude for his salvation. This includes our enemies and random members of society. All souls were made by God, for Himself. They belong to Him. So, we cannot love God, while despising what is His, no matter what condition it is currently in.
'The person who loves God cannot help loving every man as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified. But when they amend their lives, his delight is indescribable and knows no bounds. A soul filled with thoughts of sensual desire and hatred is unpurified. If we detect any trace of hatred in our hearts against any man whatsoever for committing any fault, we are utterly estranged from love for God, since love for God absolutely precludes us from hating any man.' --St. Maximus the Confessor
The Works of Mercy and the Golden Rule
"And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in like manner." Luke 6:31
True love results in works, not just words and emotions. We know the spiritual and corporal works of mercy:
To admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead
To feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to ransom the captive (sometimes said "to visit the imprisoned") to harbor the harborless, to visit the sick, and to bury the dead.
Today, the corporal works of mercy are perverted into being and end in themselves, without the the love of God as their motive. This Freemasonic concept is prevalent everywhere today, particularly in the Modernist "Catholic" Church. At the same time, the works of mercy are seen as optional; extra things you do, just out of the goodness of your heart, that make you a super-good person. It is true, one person is not obligated to do each and every possible work of mercy, as circumstances interfere, but in general sense:
The works of mercy are not optional. Our salvation depends on them.
"The doing of works of mercy is not merely a matter of exalted counsel; there is as well a strict precept imposed both by the natural and the positive Divine law enjoining their performance. That the natural law enjoins works of mercy is based upon the principle that we are to do to others as we would have them do to us.
The Divine command is set forth in the most stringent terms by Christ, and the failure to comply with it is visited with the supreme penalty of eternal damnation (Matthew 25:41)" Catholic Encyclopedia
“Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me. Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.” – Matt 25:34-46
Here it is true, there is mention directly and explicitly of only the corporal works of mercy. As, however, the spiritual works of mercy deal with a distress whose relief is even more imperative as well as more effective for the grand purpose of man's creation, the injunction must be supposed to extend to them also." - Catholic Encyclopedia
We live in a time of tremendous spiritual hunger and destruction. What will become of those who have the knowledge of the Faith, or access to the resources to learn it, yet fail to find the time or energy to share it with others? We decry the perversion of today's world, yet shrink from dispelling the ignorance from which it springs. There would be much less to decry, if the obligation to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy were taken seriously.
He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him? – 1John 3:17
"Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders." --St. Anthony Mary Claret.