In John chapter 6 Jesus says, “Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood you shall not have life within you.” As Catholics, we know He was speaking of the necessity of the Eucharist for our salvation. And we read that as a result of this teaching many of His disciples left and no longer followed Him.
But a listener named John had an issue with that. He called-in to Father Simon Says™ and pointed out, “Those people didn’t have the opportunity to think about bread and wine becoming His Body and Blood. He never projected that to them, so that was kind of a tough situation.”
It can seem from this passage that some people have an easier road to salvation than others. If you happen to be born after Jesus’ Resurrection, if you happen to be born Catholic and are taught the truth of the Eucharist, if you live in a time and place where Catholic worship is not suppressed or persecuted it can seem like you have an advantage when it comes to salvation.
Does that mean that God plays favorites when it comes to salvation? Are others just out of luck if they don’t have the opportunity to follow Jesus and be in communion with Him through the Eucharist?
Father Richard Simon explained, “The Catechism answers this very simply. The Catechism says we are bound by the sacraments. God is not. In other words, God is not going to expect something from them that He made it impossible for them to give.”
“If a person has the opportunity to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man then they must do it,” he said. “If they don’t have that opportunity then God, in His mercy and in His justice, will give them that chance ultimately.”
Fr. Simon pointed to an account of the martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, that offers such an example. In her diary, St. Perpetua tells that she was baptized while in prison. Although there was no way for her to receive the Eucharist while imprisoned and before her death, she tells of a vision she had.
Fr. Simon recounted the story, saying, “She had a dream that she climbed the ladder to heaven, and she was given something to eat. When she woke up she was actually chewing something, she said. So God can give the chance to the people who would take it of eating His flesh and drinking His blood even when they’ve left this world. It isn’t beyond God to do that.”
Though we cannot presume the eternal destiny of those who have died outside of the Church, the story of St. Perpetua offers hope that God will give everyone an opportunity for salvation.
“I’ll never forget that account of the martyrdom of Sts. Felicity and Perpetua” Fr. Simon said. “God can do this. And God would never condemn someone, I don’t think, without giving them the chance of repentance.”
Father Simon Says™ airs weekdays at 1:00 p.m. Central on Relevant Radio and the Relevant Radio App.