You are standing before the judgment seat of God and He asks you the question” Why should I let you into My heaven?” What are you going to say? Take a minute and think about your answer. Got it? OK, just keep it in the back of your mind. In looking at the judgment Jesus doesn’t say “You didn’t do enough of this or too little of that.” But, He will say to some, “Depart from Me. I never knew you”. This reveals an all important point: that salvation is extremely personal. So how do you get to heaven: pray the right prayers? Do more good things than bad? Be sincere? The Bible is pretty clear that it involves faith in Jesus Christ. I hope that was at least part of your answer. Faith is a tricky thing, however.
First, saving faith is not only an agreement with church teachings. You need orthodoxy to lay a firm foundation for faith. It is absolutely essential, but just agreeing with a creed or catechism isn’t enough. You can tell by the people who come to church every Sunday and drone through the Mass, while others seem to have an extra dimension. We can assume that everyone there has faith. There is head faith but no heart faith. How do you become a Catholic that “gets it”? Let’s look at the sacraments to start.
There are three things needed for a sacrament to be valid: elements, word and faith. When we baptize an infant there is the element: water; the words: “I baptize you” and faith? Since the baby has no faith at this point the faith of the Church stands in for the infant until some future time when the child will come to faith in Jesus. So, after learning the teachings of the Church; this person must apply the truths learned to have a “Come to Jesus” moment or Second Conversion (CCC 1427-1430). I think this occurs in the spiritual part of ourselves and can be demonstrated by our response to the sacraments.
The first sacrament of faith in our spiritual selves is Matrimony not Baptism. Jesus comes to us and asks “Will you marry me? I offer you suffering, sacrifice, a cross and death, but also eternal life and glory. Will you marry me”? You say, “Yes. Yes, Jesus, I will marry you”. Then you two come before the Father and become one in eternal marriage. Since you are now bound to Christ, all that is His is yours and all that is yours becomes His; including your sin.
Now the Eucharist comes into play when Jesus takes all of your sins upon Himself physically upon the cross, but you also in a spiritual sense die with Him. The two have become one. What happens to Him happens to you. You both die because the penalty of sin is death. Since Jesus was successful in His mission to pay for our sins, a just God can now offer you reconciliation and forgiveness: the third sacrament.
The evidence that Jesus was successful in paying for our sins is His resurrection to new life on Easter Sunday. We too then rise with Him to new life by the washing of regeneration and the power of the Spirit. God, Himself, baptizes us. The Holy Spirit indwells us also at this time to give us the ability to live this life in Christ. We are born again of water and of Spirit in our spiritual selves. Baptism and Confirmation take place here in the spiritual realm and our heart faith becomes complete, without which there can be no salvation. Baptism and Confirmation are the last sacraments in the spiritual dimension, but the first in the physical dimension.
All the sacraments in the physical world have validity because they have already occurred in the spiritual world of faith. Our infant baptism now becomes personal at our Second Conversion and is the sacrament of testimony of our new birth, which allows initiation into the Mystical Church. Confirmation is also personal and active as the Holy Spirit moves in our lives here on earth to change us into the image of Jesus. As we grow in our Christian life we have the sacrament of Reconciliation to keep us on the road of grace and the Eucharist to renew our souls in the journey. There is a new life of joy and peace. All of our sacrifices and works are done out of love of God not to get to heaven. But because our heart faith is real, we are on our way to heaven. When this world ends the marriage is completed in every sense at the marriage supper of the Lamb and we will live forever with the One Whom we love.
Salvation is extremely personal. So where are you? Do you have the heart faith or just head faith? Do the things of God excite you: prayer, worship, meditation, Bible study or are they boring? Do you want to go to heaven and be with this God or do you just want to avoid hell? Not sure? Then pray. Seek God like a lover and you will find Him; any that come to Him He will in no way cast aside.