In today’s first reading, St. Peter boldly tells the Jewish leaders that there is no salvation possible except through Jesus. This is a truth that the Church has continued to teach to the present day, using the traditional formula, “Outside the Church their is no salvation.” As we honor the world day of prayer for vocations today, I am reminded of the many religious brothers and sisters who have gone to the far reaches of the earth to spread the gospel. Many have heroically laid down their lives for the truth that the Church and belief in Jesus are necessary for salvation.
At the time of the Second Vatican Council, this teaching was revisited and nuanced it slightly. Most people until that point would have took the teaching to mean that only visible members of the Catholic Church could be saved. Vatican II added that those who through no fault of their own do not know Jesus or his Church could still be saved, but only in some mysterious way through the Church. Notice that the council fathers only said that it was possible for non-Catholic to be saved. They didn’t say it would be easy or even all that likely.
I can’t imagine how difficult life would be without the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist and penance. Here again our attention is drawn to prayer for vocations. Without the priesthood we wouldn’t have the sacraments and therefore would not be the Church. We must all be incredibly grateful to our Lord that he has given us the beautiful gift of the sacraments in the Church and therefore also incredible grateful for the good shepherds through whom we continue to receive those sacraments today.
The sacraments do matter and Jesus really does want everyone to be Catholic. St. Peter faced far greater danger in professing this then any of us are likely to encounter. So what’s stopping you? Go out with great joy and share your Catholic faith in Jesus, the only means possible for salvation.