In Catholic theology, salvation bears very little resemblance to the somewhat legalistic event it sometimes appears to be in some (only some!) familiar Protestant approaches. It is not a single event, in which the sinner recites a formula prayer, or otherwise declares that Jesus Christ is his or her personal Lord and savior, and from that point forward, they are saved. Rather, in the Catholic Church, salvation is all about being in relationship with Christ. Mere belief is not sufficient - after all, even the Devil "believes" in God. Without a personal relationship with the Lord, you have a "faith" which is dead and which avails you nothing.
In Catholic Christianity, going through your life convinced that you are going to Heaven regardless of how you conduct your life or whether you walk in the paths of the Lord is treated as a particular kind of sin, called presumption. It is considered a very depraved form of arrogance. I don't mean to suggest that Protestants who think "once saved, always saved" are arrogant, I am just explaining the Catholic perspective.
At the same time Catholics can and should have confidence in the mercy of God. God is love and went so far as to die for our sins; He does not go around damning repentant sinners, no matter how horrible their sins might be. I am certain that the priest in your story is pretty sure he is going to go to Heaven, but at the same time he is not going to "presumptuously" say that his journey with Christ is complete or that he does not still need to grow in the Lord. We live in faith and trust, but we acknowledge that we have to respond to the call of Jesus every day; we can't just point back to one time however many years ago when we claimed the Lord as our own. (Matthew 7:21)
I hope that this explanation is helpful and unoffensive...
Your explanation is superb.
Thank you. Your explanation does help very much to explain the Catholic perspective on the certainty of salvation.
I believe that when one declares oneself certain of his eternal destination, of course, one is to examine themselves to see if they are truly “in the faith”. Because we can deceive ourselves so easily. (2 Cor 13:5)
And yet, surely the assurance of salvation, which includes our eternal presence in heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father and the Holy Spirit....is promised and mentioned in many many scriptures? (I can search for these later). I think of one: John 10 = especially 27-29.
25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[d]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
Is it not of tremendous power and comfort and victory in a Christian’s life to know that Jesus gives to those who hear His voice (and follows Him) ETERNAL LIFE and NOTHING, no power, no person, no sin, can “snatch” that person out of God’s hand?
Yes it can be presumptive to say we know we are going to heaven when we die. But it can also be tremendously destructive in a Christian believer’s life to doubt their eternal security.....where one wonders constantly - have I done enough, have I done the right things, have I performed the right duties, have I done enough good deeds, in order to be sure I will be judged worthy of heaven?
Paul addresses in Romans 6 the challenges posted by those who claimed he was preaching licentiousness in the name of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ! I would be very glad to talk about Romans 6 (or any part of the book of Romans) with anyone who would like to talk about it. I’ve just recently come to better understand God’s Word in that section of Scripture.