|And life after death?
In reading the Gospels, the Church teaches that God promises eternal life in the joy of His presence to everyone of goodwill(1). Sometimes we welcome Jesus without really knowing him. These are the words of the Lord himself when he talks about the last judgment: «Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.» (Matthew 25: 31-45)
Therefore, every honest person who strives to do good and open their heart to the misery of others, welcomes Jesus, the Son of God, and they are saved.
Does this mean that there is no need to be baptized? Surely not. Anyone who knows the Gospel and understands who Jesus is must not neglect anything to welcome and believe in Him and " to be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19) Indeed, "the one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16) To take the Gospel seriously requires the acceptance of Baptism and a personal commitment to follow Christ.
To be baptized is to receive the light of Christ in order to become a child of God. Jesus is "the true light that enlightens every man.... He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God." (John 1:9-12)
To be baptized is to receive God's forgiveness through the death of Jesus on the cross for us. This forgiveness not only cleanses us but it gives us grace which is a strength to love and to do good.
Baptism gives us access to the community of all those who choose and will choose Christ: the Church.