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One of my favorite stories is the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. In this great adventure story between good and evil and personal choice, the author was able to imbue his deep Catholic faith in a quiet but compelling way. One connection I just made this week was near the beginning of the story, when four simple hobbits are running away with their short legs from some fierce enemies on horseback. They are pretty hopeless to escape except for the river crossing that is nearby: a ferry that will bear them safely out of their foe's reach. That ferry is truly the only way they are saved.
In some ways, brothers and sisters, that ferry is a symbol for the Lord Jesus Christ. As Saint Peter says today, There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.
The Catechism describes this as well in par. 846:
all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
- Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336
Now we need to be clear that people may not know about Christ and therefore only have opportunity to seek God in other ways. This is what conscience is.
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
- 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, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
Jesus and His Church are so important that we can describe them as the one bridge that we need to be saved. The Name of Jesus is a beautiful gift, for the name bears a representation of the whole person of the Son of God who died and rose for us. Thus, we must treasure the gift of the name of Jesus, even as Saint Peter clearly does. In fact, it is a good simple prayer to repeat slowly and peacefully the name, Jesus, and simply keep our attention fixed on Him.
Finally, as we also remember Good Shepherd Sunday, the Church reminds us of the importance of vocations. So we remember that if Jesus is the one bridge that brings us safely to the eternal shores of heaven, we cannot help but recall where we encounter the Lord Jesus: in the Church and her sacraments. So we thank God for the priests we have encountered in our lives. Men who, each in their own ways and albeit imperfectly, were human instruments through which we have met the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist, in Confession, and in many of the important milestones of life. This summer we have an opportunity to support the vocation of the priesthood in a seminarian who will be with us for ten weeks. Vince Faurote, of Decatur, IN, will be joining us in about a month. I ask you to keep him in your prayers as the Lord works in his heart and soul over the next years to shape him into a worthy instrument of God's grace - to represent well the one bridge between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd.