Perhaps you’ve noticed at Mass that most of our prayers are directed to God the Father. That is why you see me looking up so often. I’m looking up to our Father in Heaven as I speak to Him. From time to time, while I’m looking up, I can’t help but notice the ceiling. Take a look for yourself. It often reminds me of a boat’s wooden hull. That is really quite appropriate, because the Church is a boat and it is an important boat to be in.
The old ark was a boat built by Noah in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through the waters of the flood. The new ark is our Church, the boat built by Christ, in which many are saved through the waters of baptism. Jesus’ boat has the cross for its mast and its sails are filled by the winds of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church, the bark of Peter, is the only vessel that navigates safely through the dangerous waters of this world.
As the Church Fathers frequently said, “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” But how should we understand this teaching? Restated positively it means this: that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church, which is his Body. Basing Herself on Scripture and Tradition, Bride of Christ teaches that she, the Church, is necessary for salvation. As the Second Vatican Council repeated in modern times, Jesus “himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.”
It must be noted that this teaching is not aimed at those who do not know Christ and his Church through no fault of their own. “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.”
“Although in ways known to Himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please Him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.” If we love all men, we will naturally desire to share the truth and blessings of the Church’s Gospel with everyone. Think of it this way: while it is theoretically possible for anyone to swim the English Channel, it is a far easier crossing if we take the ferry. In the same way, it is not a matter of indifference if people come into the Church or not. The journey is much safer and easier if you’re in the boat.
Remember not underestimate the importance of the Church. In the end, all those who will be saved will be saved through their relationship, known or unknown, with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Jesus founded.
And do not underestimate the importance of the Mass. All the graces that flow into souls pours forth from the Catholic Church through this sacrifice we celebrate. The Mass takes the sacrifice of Calvary from then and there, through space and time, to here and now, and applies its power and effects to our world today. (What we’re doing here is a very important thing.)
And finally, do not underestimate the importance of remaining in the Church. May we never forsake it. We have to stay in the boat with Jesus Christ, because without Him, none of us can walk on water.