In re-reading many of the late Fr. Neuhaus’ articles recently, I came upon one (scroll down to find it) that is a good point of meditation for Lent. In his “While We’re At It” musings, Neuhaus recalls a theme in a homily he heard frequently in his college years. That theme was that “God has no grandchildren. He only has children.”
Wrapped up in that statement is the idea that we individually choose and are chosen by Christ. Faith may be “given” to us by our parents, but ultimately there must be a moment of individual decision, of belief (something not unlike Rahner’s Fundamental Option in the moral realm). As Catholics, we do not believe that we are saved once and for all when we make a decision for Christ. Rather, Christ has saved us through His death and resurrection, we are being saved currently through our working out of our salvation, and we will be saved on the day of judgment.
That working out of our salvation takes place within the context of the Church. The Church is the conduit of grace through which we are given a share in the life of God Himself. We therefore hold in tension the need to be an individual believer and the need to receive grace through the sacraments.
“He cannot have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother.” (St. Cyprian, Treatise on Unity 6.) If we are to be true children of God, we must, as it were, obey the implicit 4th Commandment: to honor our father and mother. We must keep in balance these competing impulses–freedom for ourselves and submission to the Church.We must stand beneath the Cross, alone and face-to-face with Christ, while being washed in the blood and water flowing from His side that gives life to the Church. Only then can we be true children of God and heirs of His promise.