“It begins and ends with the grace of God.”
…deep within the Catechism there awaited a high hurdle. Even if Cardinal Newman convincingly demonstrates how the development of doctrine accounts for those Catholic doctrines that make Baptists bristle and Calvinists cringe, there awaited the Grace and Justification section of the Catechism. Wasn’t that the real key? Hadn’t we been taught that Catholics were “working their way to heaven” or “earning” their own salvation? Wasn’t that why Martin Luther had to rescue the gospel in the sixteenth century? Rome was preaching another gospel, as Paul warned the Galatians, deserving the anathema, right?
To my shame and embarrassment, I discovered that idea to be false; born of ignorance at best, maybe anti-Catholic prejudice, or worse. Even if I had picked it up innocently, and repeated it naively, I cannot justify my own ignorance and sloth. To my surprise, I discovered in the twenty-first century what Saint Augustine discovered in the fourth: “Great hope has dawned; the Catholic Faith teaches not what we thought, and vainly accused it of[.]” Indeed, the Church has been maligned and slandered, starting not in the sixteenth-century with the Reformers, but from the beginning. Like Augustine, when I discovered the truth of the Catholic Church, by God’s grace, I could not stay away. In fact, the Catholic Faith teaches what I have long believed: our salvation begins and ends with the grace of God – – based on the life and death of the God-Man, Jesus Christ; His cross; and His triumph over the grave by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Then quotes from the Catechism on grace and justification appear. You can read them on the Vatican website here, if you wish)
There is no daylight between the Catholic Faith and Sacred Scripture on Grace and Justification. Martin Luther had legitimate complaints about the practices and discipline of the Church in the sixteenth century. However, his expressions of sola Scriptura and sola fide were error. He had no authority to break from the Church, or to set himself up against Her…
In short, Rome does not have a works-based religion. Catholics are no more “working” or “earning” their way to heaven on their own merit than the Philippians, to whom the Apostle Paul exhorted: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.” (Phil. 2:12-13, NAB, Revised Edition). It begins and ends with the grace of God. There is no Scriptural authority to divorce my faith from my actions. You and I know each other’s faith when we see each other’s works…
From With My Own Eyes