My breakfast appointment was running late. That gave me opportunity to talk with one of the servers at the restaurant we were meeting. I had gotten to know her a little bit from previous visits, enough to know of her Roman Catholic background.
With no other customers demanding her attention, the server and I were able to have a good talk. We spoke of her family and her faith. I told her of my Catholic background.
I shared some of what I had learned from the Bible that differed from what I had been taught in my upbringing. We had a little give and take, and she seemed intrigued.
I gave her a booklet I had written that lays out some of those differences in respect to the way of salvation. She accepted it with a smile and with a promise that she would read it. We would talk about it next time I came in.
That next time ended up being a few weeks later. She had indeed read the booklet. So we talked about it.
I asked her what some of the things were that stood out to her, maybe things that were different from what she had been taught. She said it was pretty much the same.
I summarized the gospel in so many words, explaining that salvation was by faith in Christ alone and not our good works. We can make no contribution to our salvation. Jesus did it all. Our faith must rest in what He did, not in what we do.
She said without pause that’s what she believed. She didn’t argue or protest or even see a conflict as she went on to say she would get to heaven because she did good things.
I approached the subject from another angle, this time through the teaching on Purgatory. I said that if we had to pay the penalty for our sin, then that means Jesus had not paid that penalty.
It still went right by her. The clash of ways of salvation was never met. The gospel did not gain traction in her heart. I assume that means the Spirit had not prepared her heart with good soil so that the seed of the gospel might take root and bear fruit in genuine repentance and saving faith.
But there is something else this dear young woman said that brings echoes from my Roman Catholic days, something she readily volunteered to the conversation. She got most excited when she spoke of her sincere faith – in Mary. She prayed to Mary and venerated Mary. Mary was part of her salvation.
What comes to mind is a statement found in Luke’s Gospel, the same Luke who records Mary’s Magnificat in which she rejoices in God her Savior. Luke writes in chapter 11: “As [Jesus] said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”
Even at that early stage we see a budding exaltation of Mary. Jesus rebukes the woman and refocuses her attention to the word of God, a word that lifts up Christ alone as the Redeemer.
I don’t think it’s coincidental that this exchange between Jesus and the woman from the crowd is found in the narrative of Luke 11 after Jesus’ teaching about demons and Satan. Deception and counterfeits and lies are standard fare for the efforts of the evil one to discredit Christ and keep sinners captive.
I enjoy talking with the server at the restaurant. Now I know how better to pray for her.