By Larry Peterson
There are 2.2 billion Christians in the world of which 1.2 billion are Catholic. That is almost one-third of the world’s population. Obviously, there are many Christians in our world so, to the question: Can all those who call themselves Christians, be saved?
The answer is YES! Not only Catholics but Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals, etc., can be saved and get to heaven. The fact is, any one of God’s human creations can be saved. If a person truly seeks God and demonstrates by living their life “loving his neighbor as himself,” how can they not?
There are those in the Catholic Church who might insist that ”outside of the Church there is no salvation.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear on this topic; it reads, “all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846). Well, what about our Jewish brethren? What about Buddhists and Hindus and others?
The Catechism follows with; “this is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church” Indeed, if these people seek God with a sincere heart, and try, in their actions to do his will as they know it, they may also attain heaven (CCC 847).
My dad died 54 years ago, and memories of him are faded at best. (we were all very young). It was Christmas day and, as was the custom in our five-story walk-up, everyone traveled from apartment to apartment on Christmas sharing food and drink and laughter and conversation.
A group of neighbors, including dad, my brother Bobby and I, were gathered in the apartment below ours. Suddenly, a man’s voice, much louder than any of the others speaking, blurted out, “Sorry Emil, (my father’s name) that’s what the church teaches. I did not make it up.”
There are few vivid memories of my dad that I still have. But this is one that stuck like glue. As the people all grew quiet and turned to listen in, my father leaned forward in his chair and slowly and purposely said, “ Listen, Walter, let me tell you something. Any human being God ever created can get to heaven. All they have to do is love their neighbor. It doesn’t matter where they come from or even if they have a religion. We all are born knowing what is right and wrong. Heaven is every person’s choice.”
I never forgot those moments. My young head knew he had it right. What he also had right was when he said, “we are all born knowing what is right and wrong.” He did not realize he was validating and defending the Natural Law; I do not even know if he had ever heard of it. It just means that each of us instinctively knows what “right” is and what “wrong” is. We all have the ability to choose.
Many years later, inside my much older head, I still know dad had it right. We are, in fact, ALL God’s children. He was a man who never finished high school no less attend a catechism class. But he had it right, and this was way before the Catholic Church clarified the question of who can obtain salvation.
The Natural Law predicated our behavior. The Founding Fathers used it as a basis for the Declaration of Independence. Whatever happened to common courtesy among people and the common respect we gave each other? Heck, recently I was reprimanded by a woman because I held a door open for her.
It was never a perfect world but the concept of “love your neighbor” seems to have been devoured by a secular society that tolerates no opinions that might disagree with another’s life choices. The primary result of secularism seems to be “As Long as I’m Happy that is all that Matters. Too bad if you don’t like it.”
My dad was a man of faith, and because of his faith he got it right. When he said, “Heaven is every person’s choice,” he was spot on.