Q. A friend told me that there is no such thing as mortal sin. He says that if we are saved by Christ, we remain saved by Christ. Does the Church teach that if we are saved, we will remain saved?
A. In baptism, Christ forgives us of the penalties and consequences of original sin, including humanity’s separation from God begun in the Garden of Eden. In fact, in our baptism, we become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who conquered sin and death, and who opens the doorway to eternal salvation.
But Scripture teaches that we can reject the gift of salvation Christ offers to us, when we choose not to live as disciples of Christ, rejecting the moral law or the precepts of the Church, implicitly or explicitly.
In Galatians, St. Paul says that believers can “fall from grace,” and, in Romans, he warns the Church to “note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.”
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus warns that “if you do not forgive men, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your offenses.” In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus says that if a Christian “does not abide” in Christ, he will be “cast forth as a branch…gathered, [and] thrown into the fire.”
Sacred Scripture is clear: the gift of salvation is a gift we must accept, and participate in, and “work out with fear and trembling.” It is not enough for us to say that are disciples of Jesus; we must live as disciples of Jesus if we hope to live with God in eternal life.
The good news is that God knows that we fall. He offers us his mercy, true forgiveness, in the sacrament of confession. There is no sin too big for the Father to forgive. The Lord calls us, over and over again, to know his mercy, to live as his followers, so that we might live forever with him in heaven.
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