My protastant friends throw works in my face all the time when exlaining how silly I am for being Catholic. I try to explain how works do not earn our salvation but that we give them up to God.
“Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.”
Jesus redeemed us (opened Heaven), now we have to play our part. If anyone was to be saved your way it would have been Paul! But he clearly showed the error of that: “But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.” (1Cor 9:27). And again: “Wherefore he who thinks that he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12). Yet again, “And we exhort you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2 Cor 6:1).
As stated by Paul, for our salvation, what is lacking is what only we can do, for the sake of His Body which is the Church; no one has said that there is anything lacking in Christ’s redemptive passion and crucifixion which has enabled the possibility of our salvation. How could there be? Christ was acting for the whole human race, not instead of, not as a substitute. “He bore our sins in His own Body on the Cross.” (1Pet. 2:29). What did Paul say must happen because Christ is the one mediator? “Supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men” (1Tim 2:1-5). Thus we are all called to be co-redeemers. [See *Christ In Eclipse, Frank Sheed, Sheed & Ward, 1978, p 105-108).
Paul has restated the problem of suffering – how not to waste it but how to make use of it. Hebrews tells us that Jesus entered heaven on our behalf (9:24), and Paul explains (Rom 8:34) that He is at the right hand of the Father, “interceding for us,” pleading with God for us; and “He holds His priesthood permanently.” (Heb 7:24). That is precisely why His continuing priesthood breaks through to our altars at every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – in the Mystical Body of Christ which is His Bride, His Church.
We are called to be coredeemers with Christ: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1Tim 2:5). And because Christ is the one Mediator St Paul commands “supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men.” (1 Tim 2:1). That’s the Mass. The Mass “is beyond compare the most important work Christ does through His Church: and it is our privilege to join the priest and so join Christ Himself in the offering He is making in heaven.” (Frank Sheed, Christ In Eclipse, Sheed and Ward, 1978, p 107).
St Paul is very clear: “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His Body which is the Church.” (Col. 1:24). What is lacking in Christ’s suffering is precisely what only we can do – take up our cross and suffer, repent and ask forgiveness, following the dictates of our conscience.
“It is not those who say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21). When asked “What must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Keep the commandments.” (Mt 19:16-17).
No one is “saved” until they have responded to the redemption of Jesus by cooperating with Him to supply what was lacking in His afflictions – when we walk in good works (Eph 2:10). As James teaches: “Faith without works is dead.” (See Jam 2:14-26).