And then the inevitable question: “Am I a good fish or a bad fish?”
First some good news:
1) The Holy Spirit works in changing my reality (spiritual reality) into a Jesus-fish. The teaching of the Church, which it received from Christ, is that the Holy Spirit is my life, is at work right now to fulfill Jesus’ command/desire – and His desire is to have me come to Him. And God cannot be frustrated or denied. It will happen.
2) Baptism marks me as Christ’s – that means my soul has been changed from fish-type into Jesus-fish-type.
3) Every Sunday the priest pronounces me “clean” – this means every Sunday I am stripped down to only my Jesus-fish reality. That is why I am able/allowed to go up to the altar and receive the Body and the Blood.
There is a need to look at my own mind and try to discern where my feelings of unworthiness come from. Those have nothing to do with my spiritual reality, they are part of the world and the flesh – both will go away. More good news! But there is work to do. I must develop a capacity to be unconcerned with my eternal fate, instead be deliberate in understanding the present, the now, this moment. Where am I? There is also work in placing my own need to understand (and control) into perspective – not all activity of God is going to be transparent to me. It is a “need to know” and I don’t – I can’t – know it.
Now back to the question “Am I going to Heaven?” or “Am I saved?” – in this case “Am I the bad or the good fish?” Clearly the point is that not everyone is saved, and that not everyone who actually goes to church is saved (and some of those who don’t are). Well we are ALL bad fish, so there are no good fish in the net. Jesus was the only Good Fish.
The second issue, and it may be even less comforting, is that the standards for pass/fail are known only to God (and His angels one presumes) – so there is no way of telling what I must/must not do. The angels are instructed to keep only Jesus-fish, and throw away the rest. Only Jesus gets to heaven.
In an interesting essay here there is a distinction drawn between “belief” and “belief in belief”. This, for me, answers many questions in spiritual life.
Some may have difficulty with believing the Virgin Birth, or the Resurrection, and have no clue how to grasp the concept of the Trinity. These are difficult Mysteries (in the real sense of the word) and not graspable by a gum-chewing mind, a mind which is trained to react to ads in magazines and laughs on cue to sitcoms. Most have no energy, time or training to wrestle with Mysteries.
But…and this is big…but those same people are ok with believing that it is good to go to church, or that it is good to love Jesus. They believe the belief that church is good. They believe that believing in Jesus is good – they are not believing in Jesus directly, they believe that believing in Jesus is good. Do you get the difference?
I could put it more directly: what saves you is knowing Jesus; believing in Jesus is useless. Do you believe in the Sun? Do you believe in your chair? Do you know them? There is a huge difference.
This is critical – the fish which are good are the ones who know Jesus, the ones which are bad are the ones who believe in knowing Him. The first are the sheep, the second are the goats.
Hard? Go back to the good news at the top of the page.