Blest Assurance

I know that my Redeemer lives! What joy this blest assurance gives…goes the classic Easter season hymn.

Do you truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

If you’re an American, odds are, you probably do.

Is your belief, your knowing merely “informative” or fully “performative,” something that changes your life and mine, “so that we know we are redeemed through the hope that it expresses?” (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 2, 4).

If you’re Catholic and starting to feel a little uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Many Catholics are hesitant, not wanting to come across as too joyful, too confident, too assured of things like faith, hope, or redemption. Why is this? Fr. James Mallon (Divine Renovation, 2014) observes that the temptation to Pelagianism is a huge block and barrier in our culture.

Modern-day Pelagianism is the idea that our niceness and not-being-a-murder moral behavior gets us into heaven. We earn it, pretty much by just being a normal good person. It’s not too hard, it’s something most of us can probably earn–but it’s not polite to act too certain or joyful about this (that would be arrogant). Plus, deep down inside, many relate to God as a divine “Elf on the Shelf”–tallying up good and bad behavior for an eternal report card.

The problem with Pelagianism is this–we can never earn salvation on our own. “We are broken” and “there’s nothing we can do about it” (Mallon, p. 63). God’s grace is absolutely necessary. Pelagianism says we can do it ourselves. No grace required.

A lack of joyful confidence in our “blest assurance” can be a symptom of the grace-free approach to eternal life.

Evangelist Michael Gormley sees it too, writing, “What would transform the Church? If every Catholic spent a week reading about grace. Simply grace.”

When we accept grace we experience joy. We experience confidence and assurance, not because we are “holier than thou” or mostly-good-people, but because God is good. The perfect good. Love. Our confidence “is not presumption, but the filial boldness of a child before his Father that allows us to live on open terms with the Lord without a servile or inordinate fear of his judgement” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament, notes p. 473).

Christian hope is not a fleeting hope or wishful thinking (as we often use the word “hope” in the English language today). It’s not a “maybe.” Christian hope is inherently a “trustworthy hope,” a hope that gives “certainty” (Spe Salvi, 1, 9). Why? Because “in Christ, God has revealed himself. He has already communicated to us the ‘substance’ of things to come,” and as a result our expectations can rightfully include “a new certainty” (Spe Salvi, 9). Jesus Christ is the ultimate Blest Assurance. The power of God is great enough to conquer death. That same power saves us.

Do you truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead? If the answer is yes, allow this knowledge to change your life. Let the free grace of God be your firm and confident hope. Your Redeemer lives. Lay aside any notions of deserving or earning salvation. Rejoice in the Assurance of humbly asking and accepting God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Say with all your heart this Easter season, I know that my Redeemer lives! What joy this blest assurance gives!

 Copyright 2016, Colleen Vermeulen



Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

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