When I was a teenager, sleepovers almost always included the following things: M&M’s and pretzels, movies, styling each other’s hair and animated discussions about school, boys and church. I lived in South Carolina — a state whose population was only 3% Catholic — so while almost everyone went to church, I was often the only Catholic in the room.
This was rarely a source of awkwardness. My friends from mostly non-denominational Churches were incredible people who introduced me to cool things like teen study bibles, radio stations that played Christian Music and Veggie Tales. However, when they found out I was Catholic there was one question they’d ask that would leave me at a loss for words.
“Have you been saved?”
Looking back I really admire the love and concern that was behind that question, as well as the courage it took for them to bring it up at all. But I’ll admit, at the time I felt confused because while I knew it was a question about my faith, I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. And, to be perfectly honest, the question always stung a little because it instantly made me feel like an outsider and that the way I had been living wasn’t enough to prove my Christianity.
“Have you been saved?”
What did they even mean? Well, slightly different things depending on the background of the person asking the question. But after a little research I realized that it was basically an inquiry as to whether I had accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior — a necessary step (and for some, the only requirement) for me to get to heaven.
I knew that there was more to my Catholic faith than praying the “Sinner’s prayer” (a prayer in which one admits they are a sinner and in need of Jesus to save them), but I also knew that Jesus was, and is, my Savior.
So was I saved?
Here’s what I learned: I have been saved. I am being saved. And, I hope to be saved.
What does that mean, exactly?
I have been saved.
Through the death and resurrection of Christ, I have been saved from the consequences of original sin. Ephesians 2:4-5 explains that, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” When we are baptized we are “freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission…” (CCC 1213).
I am being saved.
According to 1 Corinthians 1:18, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” We are being saved, everyday, when we turn from sin and choose to nurture our relationship with Christ through the Sacraments, prayer, and the practice of virtue.
I hope to be saved.
Christ’s sacrifice made our salvation possible. Through our baptism we are incorporated into the life of Christ and given the free gift of sanctifying grace — the supernatural gift that helps us to follow Christ, even when it’s difficult. 2 Timothy 2:11-12 cautions, “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him. If we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us.” While we can be confident that God has given us all we need to reach eternal life with him, it requires perseverance on our part — the daily decision to turn away from sin and choose Christ.
In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul advised them to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12) in order “that you may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world…” (2:15).
So, as a Catholic, have you been saved? Absolutely. Christ’s sacrifice made salvation possible for all of us. But we continue to work out our salvation — just as St. Paul did — knowing that it’s a choice we have to make everyday.
You are saved. You are being saved. And, when you die, you hope to be saved.