I am writing in reference to an opinion article in the Daily Monitor of September 27 titled, â€œAre Catholics heaven-bound?â€ My concern is drawn to the religious ethnocentric overtones in that opinion.
I am writing in reference to an opinion article in the Daily Monitor of September 27 titled, â€œAre Catholics heaven-bound?â€ My concern is drawn to the religious ethnocentric overtones in that opinion. The author, Francis Oketch, described a number of Catholic practices which he claims are unbiblical and hence make many people doubt whether Catholics are really heaven-bound.
The author raised a number of doctrinal questions that needed to be elucidated and hence authenticate that Catholics are really right on the way to heaven despite their practices that apparently appear unbiblical and unspiritual.
Oketch asserted that, â€œWhen a Catholic acts unspiritually, it poses questions as to whether he is not lost at all. He mentioned the use of the Rosary for prayers and praying through Mary, the mother of the Lord and the saints whereas Christ says, â€œI am the Way, the Truth and the Lifeâ€ (John 14:6). Catholics are ridiculed for reciting the Rosary because for many non-Catholics, the Rosary is unbiblical and satanic. But we have to consider that Catholics use the help of rosary beads to recite important biblical texts which are the foundation of our Christian identity and vocation.
The rosary is the summary of the gospels as it narrates the major events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of illustration, if we take the five joyful mysteries of the rosary, we are reciting the major events in the mystery of the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. These are:
1. The first mystery: The Annunciation of the Lord (Lk.1: 26-38);
2. Second mystery: The Visitation of Our Lady (Lk.1:39-45);
3. Third mystery: The Nativity of Our Lord (Lk.2:1-20; Matt.2:1-6);
4. The fourth mystery: The Presentation in the Temple (Lk.2:22-40);
5. The fifth mystery: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the temple (Lk.2:41-52).
Again the frequently recited prayers of the rosary are all biblically founded. For example, Glory to God in the highestâ€¦ (Lk.2:14); â€œOur Fatherâ€ (Matt.6:9-15; Lk.11:2-4). In reciting the â€˜Hail Maryâ€¦â€™ a Catholic is recalling that great moment in history when God sent the Angel Gabriel to Mary, a virgin, in the town of Galilee called Nazareth, who was to conceive in her womb and bear the saviour of the world. In the rosary we repeatedly recite this text, â€œHail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with youâ€¦ (Lk.1:28-29); blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your wombâ€¦ (Lk1:42).
When a Catholic recites this text, then, is he/she doing something unspiritual and unbiblical? And if we add on this text a personal prayer: â€œHoly Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinner, now and at the hour of our death.â€ Again are we, Catholics, excluding ourselves from heaven? Or are we committing a crime of apostasy?
Oketch questioned the rationale of the doctrine of purgatory and prayers for the dead which are common practices in the Catholic Church. But he forgot that the Catholic text of the Bible carry extra books which are not recognised by other Christians but are also inspired by God and are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (2Tim.3:16-17). When we read in 2Maccabees 12:38-46, there are prayers for the sacrifices of expiation for the dead soldiers who were killed in battle for wearing the amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia. The text says, â€œit would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death, if there was no expectation for the fallen to rise again (2Macc.12:44). Prayers for the dead suggest the hope in the resurrection and the life of the world to come.
On infant baptism, an infant needs baptism because the Psalmist laments: â€œTrue, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived meâ€ (Ps.51:7). And in Johnâ€™s gospel when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, said: Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit (Jn.3: 5). And St. Paul teaches us that, â€œTherefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned (Rom.5:12); a child therefore cannot be denied baptism only for being a child. Although baptism is done after believing and repenting of sins (Acts2:38), a child too must be set on the way to repentance since as human beings â€œIf we say, we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in usâ€ (1Jn.1:8).
I believe and I am certain that Catholics are heaven-bound as is anyone who believes that he is saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and the abundant saving grace of God.
The writer teaches Philosophy and Theology at Alokolum National Major Seminary in Gulu
Catholics are truly on the way to heaven