Tag Archives: salvation

God’s gift of individual grace is not egalitarian

All human beings, regardless of their religion, nationality, or circumstance, receive a sufficient amount of grace to be saved. God actively desires our salvation; it is incumbent upon us to respond to Him. At the same time, however, it is undeniable that God gives more grace to some than to others. St. Paul explains that “grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7), to which St. Thomas Aquinas adds that “what is given in measure, is not given to all equally. Hence all have not an equal grace.”

This may strike us as unfair of God, but the varying quantity of supernatural grace conferred on each person mirrors the varying range of natural gifts each person has received. In the natural order, there are an immense range of personalities and abilities among people: some are intellectual geniuses, quick-witted and funny, and physically attractive; others are sickly, have physical ailments and intellectual processing difficulties. In the same way, there is a range of grace received among people in the supernatural order: some are inclined to prayer, to service of others, and to moral living; others struggle daily to relate to God and to keep His commandments.

The parable of the talents (Matt 25: 14-30) provides an insight into God’s diffusion of His grace. The owner of a property entrusted three of his servants with five, two, and one talent, respectively. (One talent, a monetary sum, was worth more than 15 years of wages.) Then, after a long absence, the owner summoned the three servants to settle their accounts with him. The ones who received five and two talents had each doubled their master’s money. The second servant, although his total money was far less than that of the first, heard the same commendation as the first servant from the owner: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter the joy of your master.” But the third servant, fearing his master’s wrath if he were to lose the money, had buried the single talent and returned it to him in full at the reckoning. The master reprimanded him for not using his money, claiming that he at least “ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.” The master then ordered this servant’s talent seized from him, and given to the other one with 10, and he ordered the servant cast “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Grace, we learn analogously from this parable, is given to each person as God sees fit.

Excerpt from Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism, by David G. Bonagura, Jr. Published by Cluny Media (2019), from Chapter 5, “Living the Catholic Faith,” pp.110-111, www.clunymedia.com Used with permission.

DAVID G. BONAGURA, JR., is an adjunct professor of classical languages at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York, and an adjunct professor of theology for the Catholic Distance University. He has published scholarly articles in Antiphon, New Blackfriars, and Nova et Vetera, and has written popular essays, articles, and reviews for The Catholic Thing, First Things, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Are we judged by our work?

We aren’t saved by works in themselves, we will be judged according to them . . .

Al Kresta

Al Kresta

Our salvation isn’t fixed by once “accepting Christ as our personal Savior.” It’s made certain by continuing to obey him lovingly as our Lord. “Faith apart from works is dead” (Jas 2:26).

The Catholic Church doesn’t teach salvation by works but rather, to use St. Paul’s phrase, salvation by grace through faith working in love (Gal 5:6). The faith that brings us into right relationship with God and makes us adopted sons and daughters of God is also a working faith.

Christians aren’t saved by works in themselves, they’ll be judged according to them. Jesus promised, “I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds” (Rev 22:12). Faith is made complete by expressing itself in action. Works are crystallized faith. As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). And his commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn 5:3); we need only pray as St. Augustine prayed: “Command what you will, and give what you command.”

God created us in his image and likeness to rule as co-regents of his creation. We were created for good works (Gen 1:27-28; Eph 2:8-10). His purpose in redeeming us isn’t different from his purpose in creating us. Grace builds on nature. Consequently, it’s misleading to say that we are working to get to heaven. More accurately, we are given the gift of salvation so that we might fulfill our natures. Thus we are commanded to “not grow weary in well-doing” (Gal 6:9). People cannot absolutely deserve any rewards from God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2007). But in God’s gracious plan of redemption, he invites us to receive his gift of eternal life and become his friends who love and labor with him freely. If we do anything good and virtuous it is because he, in his mercy, empowers us to perform such good works.

When we flourish in our efforts, He blesses us with eternal union with him. As the theologian and catechist Fr. Ronald Lawlor puts it: “We are said to merit eternal life, then, because we freely do the saving deeds that God makes it possible for us to do. But all this is in the context of grace. ‘When God crowns our merits,’ St. Augustine remarks, ‘is he not crowning precisely his own gifts?’”

This column is reprinted with permission from the book “Why Do Catholics Genuflect?” by Al Kresta, CEO of Ave Maria Communications and host of Kresta in the Afternoon on Ave Maria Radio.