(Continuing Lumen Gentium paragraphs 15 -17)
I think far too many people think God plays the “Gotcha” game. There are a certain amount of things that you must know, a few things that you should have done, and if you don’t do them God sifts through your life at the end and almost rejoices in saying, “Gotcha! Oh! You almost made it into heaven. But you never got around to learning about the Communion of Saints and so I have to shut you out of glory for all of eternity. Too bad! You were so close”
But God does not play Gotcha. He is all merciful. We are responsible for that about which we know. But concerning things about which we were completely clueless, God does not still hold us accountable if not knowing is not our fault.
So what does that mean for Catholics, non-Catholic Christians, and non-Christians? For Catholics, baptism is the door through which all of God’s graces are opened to us. Like the door in the Twilight Zone, a whole new reality is opened before us. God gave us the Church and the sacraments as the normative way into heaven. If we know this to be true and ignore it, we place ourselves off the path to eternity, for we have also rejected Christ. But that is not all. It is not good enough simply to belong to the Church, we must also do our best to live the life taught by Christ. This makes sense does it not? God provides a way to heaven and knowing that it is the way to heaven, we either choose it or reject it. Not that earn heaven thereby. It is free gift. But we either accept or reject it.
But what if you do not know these things to be true? In Scripture Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Nobody comes to the Father except through me.” Pretty strong declaration there. But what if I am a good Muslim, or Buddhist, or live in such a place where Christ is not even hear of? Once again, God does not play Gotcha. “Oh! If only you had heard of my Son! But you didn’t so too bad.” There are those who believe this. The Catholic Church is not among them. “Those, who through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart . . . may achieve salvation.” (16)
In other words, you are responsible for that which you know. For those who do not know, God Who so powerfully works through the sacraments can work outside of His own sacramental system and bring people to Himself. But though they may believe otherwise it is always through the merits of His Son. For those who know truth, we are responsible for living it. For those who know and reject for reasons they see as a good (my girlfriend is Mormon and so even though I know the teaching of Jesus otherwise, for the good of my family I will stop practicing the faith) at that point they are running the great risk of putting themselves outside of God’s plan.
Thus all who are saved pass to the Father through the Son. And for as much as we know to be true, we are responsible.