Dear Father | Is there salvation without belief in Jesus Christ?
Q. I grew up believing that a person could not get into heaven without believing that Jesus is God, the son of God, the Savior and our Redeemer. Some of my friends seem shocked by this. What do I tell them?
The Gospel is a bold statement to base our lives on. Jesus Himself is unequivocal in this regard, "'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6). Jesus here firmly asserts that He is the way to get to the Father, the truth sent from the Father and the life leading to heaven. He does not say that there are many ways to get to heaven, only one: through Him.
To get to Him and through Him to the Father, Christ gave us the gift of the Church. The Church is God's chosen vehicle to bring salvation to all people.
Sharing in many of these gifts given to the Church by Christ are numerous Christian denominations. These shared gifts flowing from Christ allow us to embrace them as our brothers and sisters, with the goal of reaching the fullness of unity and truth of faith in Christ in the Catholic Church.
There are other faith traditions that do not believe in Christ. Two receive special consideration. The Church sees the Jewish people as the first hearers of God's word and their faith a response to God's revelation of Himself in the Old Covenant. The Muslims are also united with the Church in that we worship and adore the God of Abraham with them.
Today, we are acutely aware of many other faith traditions that exist that do not believe in Christ.
Among those who belong to other faith backgrounds, some may live in a place where the Gospel has never been proclaimed. Such persons live their whole lives in the way they know to be good and righteous and die, never hearing the name Jesus Christ. Such persons could be saved because they desired truth and goodness throughout their lives. When they reached heaven, they would realize the fulfillment of their desire in this life to live the true and good life in the person of Jesus Christ.
Others in these non-Christian religions may know of the salvation that comes through belief in Jesus Christ and in His Church, but still refuse to be a part of it. In this case, they could not be saved, because they refused to take advantage of the true means offered to them in this life. This judgement is left to God, though, not to us.
As an archdiocese we focus on the mission of evangelization, so we should not be shy in boldly proclaiming our faith, even when others are shocked or unsettled by it.
Father Mayo is associate pastor of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Washington. Send questions for a priest to: St. Louis Review, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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