In today's Gospel reading, our Lord teaches us how to pray. He also leaves us some hard words to consider about forgiveness:
|‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’|
Faith without (good) works is dead, says St. James, so works are in there someplace as the "flesh" of our faith. If we refuse to give our works over to the will of God in obedience, then we most certainly wreck our faith and imperil our salvation. This refusal to obey is the opposite of cooperation with grace. This refusal to love is a rejection of God, who is love. Therefore, cooperation with grace, which is by obedience in our whole being (body included), does impact our salvation. It is not the cause of it, but it is a requirement. More precisely, it is God's requirement.
But a word about the Catholic notion of being saved: we don't generally express it in this way. We know instead of the state of grace, which keeps us in friendship and unity with God. Mortal sin (deliberate and gravely evil works) severs that state of grace, so we therefore understand salvation as a process that mortal sin can interrupt. We also understand that refusing to re-establish that state of grace, that friendship with God, may completely derail salvation. Thus, it is our habit to speak only of the state of grace, not of being certainly saved. The New Testament also refers often to the Last Day, at the hour of judgment, as the definite time of salvation, because that is when the process is complete. It is not a lack of confidence in the God who saves, but a realistic assessment of our sinful nature, which, in the state of grace, is being repaired by the Holy Spirit. It is daunting to think that God has given us the will to resist and rebuff the Holy Spirit. Just look again at what the Lord teaches above about the refusal to forgive. But we take comfort in the fact that we are not without help -- we refer to the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete, the helper. With his help, we can discern, we can forgive, we can love, we can obey.