The following is my very-much-shortened version of an essay circulating the internet that starts “I was a Catholic once.” I found what I think may be the original net posting: “How Do Catholics Hear The Gospel?” by Gary Michuta (from Hands-On Apologetics, March/Apirl 1997. Copyright Thy Faith, Inc. 1997).
“I was a Catholic for thirty-some years, but I never heard the gospel of salvation preached or taught or even mentioned,“ said the lady, offering me a tract. “After a good friend of mine shared the gospel with me, I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior and became a Christian. Now I belong to a Bible-believing church and share the gospel with whomever will listen.”
I scratched my head and said, “That’s strange. I hear the gospel of salvation every time I go to Mass. Maybe, I’m missing something. Tell me what you mean by the gospel of salvation?’”
“This tracts breaks it down into four easy steps,” she said. “The first step is to acknowledge that we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.”
“Catholics do that at the beginning of every Mass.” I opened a Missal, which contains the prayers of the Catholic Mass, and read the Penitential Rite.
“I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.”
“What’s the second step?”
“The second step is to recognize that only God can save us. Catholics don’t believe that God alone can save them. You believe Mary and the saints will save you.”
“No, we don’t. We ask Mary and the saints to pray for us. If I ask you to pray for me, that doesn’t mean I think you can save me. During every Mass, we pray the ‘Gloria’ which proves that Catholics look to God alone for salvation.”
“Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, you are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.”
“What’s the third step?” I asked.
“The third step is to acknowledge that you believe Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins and to bring us to God,” she said.
“At every Mass, we pray the ‘Profession of Faith’ which specifically says those things.”
“What’s the fourth step?” I asked.
“The fourth and final step is that each individual accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior to be saved,” she said.
“In the Mass, the congregation proclaims the Mystery of Faith,” I explained.
“Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.”
“What about accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior?” the lady asked. “You all may be saying these prayers, but that doesn’t mean you’re making a personal act of acceptance.”
I suggested that people ought not to be publicly proclaiming stuff they don’t believe. But besides that, we do make a personal act of accepting Jesus Christ into our hearts at every Mass.
“Right before receiving Holy Communion, the priest lifts up the consecrated host and says, ‘This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.’
“And the congregation responds, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.’
“Then, we receive Jesus not just into our hearts, but into our bodies as well. It doesn’t get more personal than that.”