We are saved. We are being saved. We will be saved.
The last line of our Creed is “I believe in…the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” Jesus the Good Shepherd says that he gives his sheep eternal life. (John 10:27-30) Paul and Barnabas proclaimed that the Lord commanded them to be “a light to the Gentiles, that they may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:43-52)
I am currently participating in a study on salvation with Lectio: Salvation with Dr. Michael Barber on www.Formed.org. To help us understand what salvation is, Dr. Barber is leading us through what salvation is not: Salvation is not self-help, not just fire insurance, not without cost, not just personal, not just a legal transaction, not a spectator sport, not simply a moment, not inevitable, not just for other people, not only about the future. As I go through this study, I am finding that understanding the gift of salvation can be difficult. Here are my thoughts on salvation:
Salvation is a gift. By his life, death, and resurrection, Christ has freely given us the gift of salvation. We do not have to do anything to earn salvation. We only have to accept the gift, open the gift, and live the gift.
Salvation is a process. We have been saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection and the waters of Baptism. We initially receive the gift of salvation in the Sacrament of Baptism. Through the waters of Baptism, we are washed clean of original sin and the love of Christ is poured into us. Throughout our lives, we nurture this gift through participation in Mass and the Sacraments, listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd in prayer, reflecting on the Scriptures, and practicing the works of the Good Shepherd with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. We are being saved as we journey through life. Every day of our lives is an opportunity to surrender to Divine Love and live in union with God. We will be saved when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead. Jesus will invite us into the fullness of salvation when we meet him face to face at the end of time.
We experience salvation here and now. Salvation isn’t something that we will receive when we die; it is available to us now as we are living in this world. God wants to have a relationship with us as we are in this life. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1881-1955) We are living our eternal life now, not just when we “get to heaven.”
Salvation, ultimately, union with God. God created us to be one with God. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We have the Divine Spark within us. God invites us, but doesn’t force us, to cultivate that Divine Spark so that we might live in union with God. “The Divine One became human so that humans might become divine.” (Saint Anthanasius, d. 373)
At the end of time, Christ will come again to "judge the living and the dead," as we say in our Creed. The thing is, God doesn't condemn us, we condemn ourselves. God created us in love and for union with God, so God must desire for us to dwell with God for eternity. Heaven is unity with God. Hell, on the other hand, is complete absence of God. We have a choice! By our actions and our attitudes, we can choose to accept or reject God's grace, God's gift of salvation. We can surrender ourselves to God or pridefully choose our own desires over God's desires for us. This is the ultimate judgment: Will we acknowledge our sins, our shortcomings and weaknesses, and accept God's grace and mercy, or will we cling to our pride and need for independence and self-reliance and turn away from God?
Through this Easter season – and always – let us recognize God’s gift of salvation, open the gift, and nurture the gift by our participation in Mass and the Sacraments, prayer, and good works. May we come to know that Christ dwells within us here and now and live according to the Divine Life within us. May we welcome God into our hearts and lives and allow the love of Christ to dwell in us and flow through us to touch the hearts of everyone we encounter.