“Born again” Christians believe they are saved only because they have “accepted Jesus as their personal saviour.” Liberal Christians seem to believe they are saved because “God is too loving and kind to damn anyone” (except maybe Hitler and Charles Manson). Secular people probably don’t give the question much thought. However, most of them probably think, “If there is a God, I’ll be okay because I’m a pretty good person.”
The Catholic Church teaches that unless God reveals your destiny to you, you can’t be sure if you will be saved. However, it teaches that you can at least have a confident hope of salvation if you: 1) are baptized; 2) obey the Commandments; 3) are in communion with the Catholic Church, attend Sunday Mass and regularly go to Confession; 4) pray daily; 5) practice ongoing charity; 6) believe the teachings of the Church; and 7) remain in a “state of grace.” It doesn’t teach that everyone outside of the institutional Catholic Church will be damned. It simply presents the way of salvation that God has revealed through Christ.
It is said that the “uncertainty” of the Catholic position is why Martin Luther began his “Reformation” and one of the main reasons that Protestants reject Catholicism. They want to be sure of their salvation!
However, what do we really know for certain? When we go to sleep at night, do we know for certain that we will wake in the morning? Do we know for certain that next month or next year we will still be employed? Do we know for certain that we will never get cancer? If we can live comfortably with so much uncertainty, why can’t many of us accept the “uncertainty” of our salvation?
As a rule, only God knows for certain whether you or I will go to heaven. No one else can guarantee it. To do so is to play God. A “born again” Christian once called me on the telephone. He wanted to talk about a letter to the editor that I had written. In the course of our conversation, he said, “This might offend you, but I don’t think you are saved.” I wasn’t offended and I wasn’t worried because this gentleman isn’t God. It seems to me that his “god” is his own flawed theology. I knew a young man who was studying to become a Lutheran pastor but, tragically, committed suicide. The Lutherans believe in “salvation by faith alone,” so his pastor said, “He is in heaven.” He must be, since he was an ardent Lutheran!
The Catholic Church teaches that suicide is often a mortal sin, which, in that case, would result in eternal separation from God. However, since we cannot judge the heart of each person who commits suicide, we cannot know his eternal fate. Because there is room for hope, we continue to pray for his soul.
If you want to go to heaven, please re-read paragraph two. If you are not following those steps, you must begin today. God promises us forgiveness, but he doesn’t promise us tomorrow!