Originally Quoted by Elisha:
I explained to her my understanding of our Catholic view of justification (initially justified through baptism, we ‘grow’ in justification through obedient faith, living our faith out in love, etc.
I am not an expert theologian…at least not yet (I begin studying theology next fall). However, from what I know, I will try to assist you.
First, one is firstmost justified through God’s grace. We cannot be justified on our own merits, by our own works separate from God’s grace.
Baptism is God’s way of providing us with His sanctifying grace through the Holy Spirit. Through God’s grace we are moved to accept divine truths in faith. This is the first step in justification. However, justification does not end there. Simply having a faith in Jesus (believing that He exists and has died for our sins) is in most cases not enough, unless that faith is an active faith, which works through love and obedience. Justification is a *process, *not a one-time imputation.
It is a grave error to believe (as many Protestants do of Catholics) that one is saved by *works. *Paul rejected the notion that one could be saved by works (even moral works), since this would imply that man could force God to re-pay him for works done on earth. There are, however, works of righteousness *which operate under a system of grace. *In this system, man does not perform works in order to earn God’s salvation, but instead performs good works because of a love of God and a recognition that God loves us, is pleased by our acts of love (despite their imperfections), and will, through his superabundant grace reward us for works done on earth (presupposing faith, of course) with eternal life.
[font=Verdana]Her question was, how do you know when you’ve done enough works to be completely justified? Can someone ever be completely justified before they die (aside from someone who has just been baptized or gone to confession).
Justification is, according to the Catholic definition, being made righteous before God. Faith always precedes and pervades works in justification. As such, the emphasis is not on how many good works someone has done, but on how faithfully a Christian has lived his Christian vocation. It is “faithfulness” in patient perseverence, not the number of works done in one’s life, that counts for justification.
Even when baptized into Christ, the Christian still sins, even though, through the Holy Spirit working in him, he proceeds towards greater righteousness. The more that Christ is in an individual, the less that he sins, and the closer he is to becoming “perfect like God.” In my opinion (and I honestly don’t specifically know Church teaching on this matter), but one cannot become “fully” and completely rigtheous in this lifetime, since this would mean that one has become as righteous as Jesus Christ, which is impossible for mere man, who, despite his freedom from sin through Christ, is nontheless tempted to sin.
Justification, although it concerns single incidences, is also a process, and as such, even when a man is made righteous in God’s eyes, he is nontheless innately flawed and therefore unable to please God, except that God has mercy for man’s condition. Justification, therefore, is a continual growing in righteousness through God’s grace working through faith, obedence and love.
You may want to read Robert Sungenis’ Not by Faith Alone, which deals specifically with the Catholic doctrine of justification and why he believes the Protestant arguments are insufficient.
You may also ask her to explain the second chapter in Romans, and of James, as well as Jesus’ many parables and teachings which emphasize doing good for others.
One oftentimes overlooked fact is that it is through Christ’s “dying on the Cross” for mankind–an act of love, in the faith that God would redeem mankind–that Christ himself ascended into the glory of heaven. Christ had complete faith in God, but only after demonstrating himself completely submissive to the will of the Father, by going through temptations and the Passion, was He raised and glorified in heaven. Jesus’ life points not simply to a belief and trust in God, but involves actually living according to that belief and trust.
If I explained anything incorrectly, please somebody correct me, since I am still somewhat new in understanding justification.