One of the things I love about Catholic theology is its sensibility. It never deviates from common sense.
Jesus said “my flesh is true food” and “eat my flesh”. Hard sayings, yes, but if He’s God then we must take Him at his Word. He also said “this is my body” referring to the unleavened bread He held broken before His disciples at the Last Supper. Thus Catholics believe that Jesus’ flesh really is true food, that He intended for His resurrected and glorified body to be eaten, and that – in the Mass – bread really becomes Jesus’ flesh blood, soul and divinity. Jesus said it, so we believe it (as all Christians did as a matter of unanimous and unbroken tradition until the turn of the second millennium).
Consider also after Christ’s resurrection when He appears to the apostles in the upper room (see John 20:21-23). Jesus says “as the Father has sent me so I send you”. Then He says “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them”. So Catholics believe that the apostles and their successors (and the priests they ordain) have the ordained privilege of communicating God’s grace on Christ’s behalf through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; they can forgive sins by way of what St. Paul called the “ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Cor 5:16). Jesus explicitly gave his ordained ministers the privilege of forgiving sins on his behalf, and that’s what the Church believes as another matter of unbroken tradition.
Or what about the place of works in salvation? Catholics believe (as do many Protestants) that works matter. Nonetheless, sola fide – the concept of salvation through “faith alone” – holds true with many Protestants still and remains a dividing line within Christianity. Is the Catholic conception of salvation biblical, or are Catholics really the Pelagian heretics they renounced years ago? The Holy Word Of God says “we are saved by works and not by faith alone” so Catholics believe – and have always believed – that we are not saved by faith alone; that’s what the Bible says. Unless of course, by “faith alone” one means a working faith – or a faith animated by love. We are saved by grace, as St. Paul teaches, through faith working in love (see Eph 2:8-10; Gal 5:6).
Finally, Catholics believe – and have always believed – that although we are saved by grace, that grace has to come to individuals (normatively) in a particular way ordered by God. That way is, initially, baptism. As God, who can create out of nothing, has chosen to involve man in procreation, so also has God chosen to involve man in conferring His saving grace – in making each baptized man and woman in to a “new creation” (see 2 Cor 5:17). In other words, “baptism now saves you” as St. Peter wrote in his first epistle. Once again, as in the cases with the Eucharist and Confession, Jesus said it so we believe it.
But let’s go a bit deeper with the question of baptism. Is there indeed good evidence across the New Testament pages that “baptism now saves you”?
What does Jesus say?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:6
This passage was unanimously recognized among the early Church Fathers to refer to the sacrament of Baptism.
Jesus also states the following as he commissions the disciples at the end of St. Luke’s Gospel:
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Luke 16:16)
How are the apostles to make disciples? How are they to bring people into the fold of the Church of Christ? Jesus says:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matt 28:19)
Remember: St. John the Baptist acknowledged that the one was was to come after him, whose sandals he was unworthy to untie, would baptize not with water but with the Holy Spirit (see Mark 1:8). At the beginning of the synoptic Gospels Jesus goes down into the water, and when he emerges, the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove. Indeed the saving power of baptism – the sacramental reception of the Holy Spirit – comes through immersion (or sprinkling; see the Didache for evidence of early Church “sprinkling”) in water. Baptism is how one is born again through the water and the Spirit, as Jesus both says and demonstrates.
What does St. Peter say?
Our first pope writes in his first letter to the universal Church:
“God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.” (1 Pet 3:20-21)
In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter preaches:
“And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38)
And St. Paul?
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4; see also Colossians 2:12)
“…he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:6)
And remember the devout man, Ananias, in the Acts of the Apostles? St. Paul recalls his words:
“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)
The former agnostic, G.K. Chesterton, once stated: “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” Indeed. In the end, choosing to be Catholic just makes sense; it makes so much sense that it would not make sense to be anything else. That’s why I’m Catholic.
My purpose here is not to proof-text, but to prove from the sacred texts that Catholicism is reasonable. Sure, the theology of the sacraments goes deeper than just a verse here or a passage there. But the deeper one goes with their investigation of Catholicism, the more it makes sense. The only pre-requisite is fairness; for one who is fair to the Church will soon be fond of her. This is not to ridicule or smugly renounce the teachings of other Christians outside of the Catholic Church, but rather, to emphasize the genius of Catholicism. Not only do the teachings of the Church match the teachings, by and large, that the earliest Christians promoted and professed; but they match what the Bible says.
Click here to read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about baptism.