From a traditional mission priest and friend of Rorate:
Let us focus our attention on the difference between Redemption and Salvation. Over the last 50 years or so there has been much confusion over who is saved and how. Practically speaking, this confusion was seen in the controversy over the words “for all” or “for many” in the Consecration at the Novus Ordo Mass.
So, let us begin by simply asking… Are you saved? The correct answer is “NOT YET. I am working on it! Pray for me!” People often ask us how we are doing… perhaps a good response would be simply to say: “I am working out my salvation.”
But wait a minute. Are we not baptized? Do we not pray, go to confession, receive Holy Communion? Are these not signs that we are saved? No. These are all signs that we have been Redeemed. Fr. John Hardon, SJ: “Literally, to redeem means to free or buy back. Humanity was held captive in that it was enslaved by sin. Since the devil overcame human beings by inducing them to sin, they were said to be in bondage to the devil. Moreover, the human race was held captive as to a debt of punishment, to the payment of which it was bound by divine justice. On all these counts, the Passion of Christ was sufficient and superabundant satisfaction for human guilt and the consequent debt of punishment. His Passion was a kind of price or ransom that paid the cost of freeing humanity from both obligations. Christ rendered satisfaction, not by giving money, but by spending what was of the highest value. He gave himself, and therefore his Passion is called humanity’s Redemption.”
St. Paul: “You are not your own; you were bought with a great price” (1Cor. 6:20). St. Peter: “you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver… But with the precious blood of Christ” (1Pet 1:18).
Since this “buying back” by the Christ covers all sins and all debts of punishment possible for all men of all times and places, then we can say that ALL of mankind is redeemed, objectively speaking. There is no further price to be paid by Our Lord. Thus, He is called the Redeemer of the World or the Redeemer of the Human Race. St. John says: “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1Jn 2:2). The Sacred Heart said to Sr. Josefa Menendez: “It was love that made Me suffer the most ignominious contempt and horrible tortures… and shed all My Blood and die on the Cross to save mankind and redeem the whole human race” (Way of Divine Love, p. 235).
Yet in many places in the same revelations, the Sacred Heart repeats over and over that many many souls go to hell to be lost forever, and this causes Him great pain. How, then, can He redeem the whole human race and yet many, if not most, are lost? Our Lord Himself gives the answer in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved” (Matt 24:13). In another place: “And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:23-24). When the Apostles and Evangelists use the term “saved”, they almost always place it in the subjunctive mood (which expresses what is possible but not yet realized)…they say things like: “may be saved” … “might be saved” … “shall be saved”… “should be saved”… will be “saved, if you hold fast…and did not believe in vain”.
Thus, from all this, it is clear we need to make a distinction between Redemption and Salvation. Redemption for all men takes place objectively when the price is paid. That happened on Good Friday. Redemption takes place for the individual when they submit to Christ and His Church… when the objective is applied to the subject. Salvation, however, takes place upon death.
When St. John Bosco was attending minor seminary, he made friends with a very good boy. They both strove for virtue and holiness together, making a pact with each other that whoever died first, the other would pray for their soul to pass through Purgatory quickly… but also, that same soul would come back to let the other know they had been saved. Soon John Bosco’s good friend became ill and died. A little later in the night, the windows and doors of the dormitory opened on their own, and John heard his friend say out loud: “Bosco, I am saved!”
To be saved ourselves, we must receive the Redemption of Christ into our souls. This does not happen by itself… we have to co-operate with God and His Church. And we know with absolute certainty this is done by way of Baptism. Through these cleansing Sacramental waters we become a Temple of the Holy Ghost. What has been earned for the whole human race on Good Friday, objectively speaking, is now applied to our souls individually… subjectively in time and space. This, however, is only the beginning of our journey to heaven. We now enter into the Church Militant and make our pilgrimage out of this world… we strive to stay on the narrow and straight path until death. St. Augustine famously said: “God made us without us, but He will not save us without us.”
In the Gospel, redemption is symbolized by the paralytic being cured. Once cured, however, he is now free to begin the journey in working out his salvation. This is symbolized by his taking up his mat and going home… “Arise, take up thy pallet and go to thy house. And he arose, and went away to his house.” Thus, St. Paul says, “with fear and trembling work out your salvation” (Phil 2:12). St. Teresa of Jesus says in her Interior Castle that even souls who have reached the 7th Mansion can still turn around and be lost.
Are all men redeemed? Objectively speaking, yes. Christ won the war! If any man wants to start working out his salvation, he must start by being baptized… otherwise, he remains paralyzed… unable to do ANY supernatural good, anything that is pleasing to God and worthy of heaven. Since all men do not give themselves over to be baptized… and enter upon the narrow path, the consecration at Mass says, “for many” rather than “for all”. Even though the war has been won, Christ is still fighting battles for individual souls! And many are unwilling to rise up and fight!
Are we redeemed? Yes, since we have been baptized. Are we saved? Not yet…since we are not yet dead… not yet crucified with Christ. To think otherwise, one enters into presumption. And presumption is a sin against the Holy Ghost… the worst evil there is, for it does not allow one to repent.
Keep these simple distinctions in mind and you will not fall into the confusion that seems only be to growing in our times… Let us never forget: “He who perseveres to the end will be saved.”