This is addressed to the true believing Christians out there who make daily and tremendous sacrifices to bring Christ to others. It is especially to those among these ministers (lay ministers and those who are ordained) who see people who do not believe in God helping the poor and feeding the hungry and wonder…. Catholic teaching understands that Salvation is not automatically denied to people who do not profess belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – if a goodhearted person is living every day seeking and serving love and justice, doing those things that Christ tells us to do, then Salvation is open to that person. This can lead some to wonder what’s the point of spending time in worship and devoting oneself to religious doctrines and practices – and the many sacrifices that Catholic Christians are called to make in the name of Jesus – if any non-Christian who does truly good works can get to Heaven.
To you who are feeling doubt I say, in the words of our Lord, “Be not afraid!” I do believe that as long as we lovingly serve the poor, we will be saved. We should ask ourselves, however, “What is service of the poor?” Yes, there are people who do good things, acts of charity, who don’t believe in God. They are giving the poor a service, a very important service: food, clothing, shelter, work, a kind word, patient attention, a friend to call on for any of these things – but are they raising the soul of the poor person to God? By doing good works, people are uniting themselves with Christ, knowingly or unwittingly, because Christ is the source of all Goodness. But – are they uniting the poor people that they serve with Christ?
We must love one another with our whole selves, as Jesus loves us. We cannot be like those at the end of time who go to Jesus and say “Lord, Lord,” and he replies to them “I never knew you.” Infinitely better for him to say to us, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink… Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
In truly loving one another with our whole selves, as Jesus loves us, we can, through our faith, mercy, and love, unite others with Christ. This is not something that any nonbeliever can do. So, to those of you ministers and good Christians who are struggling, I say…
Who is peering into the depths of a homeless teenager’s soul to tell her, to show her, that God her Creator loves her beyond compare and suffers with her every moment in order to bring her deep, peaceful joy that never ends? Who will do that? The answer is you. Only one who deeply loves God, who “spends time in worship,” who has an intimate, daily, conscious relationship with Christ our Savior can fully know, love and serve God – and only that person can give to the poor what the world cannot give. Only you.