The Church has seesawed between an emphasis on faith — that you achieve salvation through private worship of the Lord — and stress on good works. Clearly, it takes a combination of both things to be a good Catholic and to live life as Christ wished us to do. But how can we achieve this balance.
What Is Salvation?
Salvation means overcoming sin and the basic flaws of the human condition and returning to the ultimate, longed-for state of spirituality. The example we have of salvation is Christ's Resurrection, in which he was transformed into a new mode of existence. That transformation is what we are all striving to achieve.
While there is a strong judgmental quality to this idea — that the wicked will be punished — we must also remember that it is tempered by Jesus' compassion. So we trip and fall, ask forgiveness, and soldier on again.It is every Catholic's individual responsibility to work out his or her salvation, and the framework of the Church provides plenty of help for every Catholic to reach that goal. As the bishops proclaimed at Vatican II, the values that we cherish on earth, “human dignity, brotherly communion, and freedom,” are of “vital concern to the kingdom of God.”
A Full Catholic Life
To be a Catholic, it is not enough to observe the outward signs of worship, such as going to Mass and confession and having sacramentals around your house. That falls short of achieving the state of inner worship that is critical to becoming one with the Lord. It is not enough to only do good works. No matter how generous you are with your time, you must still observe the obligations of worship that membership in the Church requires.
It is the Catholic's responsibility to permeate society, strengthened in purpose by faith, and to try to be a force for good. As the Catholic Catechism attests, “If a bad apple affects the good ones, cannot we as Christians and Catholics reverse the procedure and be the good ones that affect the bad?” We want to help those systems of justice whose aim is to save humanity from its sometimes misguided cultural and temporal interests.