Tag Archives: salvation

Salvation Comes To Our House

If you follow Pope Francis– and many people are following him these days–you notice that since the pope has moved downstairs to the guest house in the Vatican he’s making the daily Eucharist there one of his most important sources for learning and teaching God’s word. Some of his best insights are found in his daily homilies at morning Mass.

These are not elaborate sermons but simple remarks that usually come as he reflects on the scripture readings or the feast that’s being celebrated. He’s reflecting on the “daily bread” God gives him, and all of us.

This morning we read the story of Zacchaeus, the tax-collector in Jericho, whom Jesus calls to salvation as he makes his way to Jerusalem. How many times we’ve heard his story from Luke’s gospel, yet I noticed today something I didn’t see before: Jesus doesn’t call Zacchaeus to follow him, as he told another tax-collector, Matthew.

Jesus doesn’t tell Zacchaeus to give up his job and go somewhere else. No, salvation comes to his house, Jesus says. As far as we know, when Jesus left, the chief tax-collector stayed in Jericho, doing what he was doing, probably still wealthy, but now a changed man.

Does salvation come to us too like that? Does it come to our house, where we live and for what we do? Does it make us see things differently? Does it help us do things more justly and lovingly? Does it enable us to be the presence of Jesus where we are?

Harold Camping’s Judgment Day

Harold Camping is predicting judgment day today around 6 PM. Signs are up in the buses and on billboards in our area.

I watch his program every once in awhile because he’s an unlikely prophet. He’s an old man with a face like shoe leather and a gravely slow voice who always thanks those who call in to his program “for sharing.” But really there’s not much sharing. It’s mostly Harold shuffling through the bible he has on his lap and droning out his commentaries on bible verses. His big news is the end of the world coming today.

He’s dead against the Christian churches of any denomination. Satan’s got into the churches, he says. He’s arrived at today’s judgment day by an absurd set of calculations. But unfortunately he’s got an big audience out there who have lost confidence in institutions like churches and governments and are afraid.

Harold preys on their fears. He announces a God who only will save a few. Get ready, Harold says. He’s coming today in earthquakes. And while you’re getting ready, send some money in to Family Radio so that they can announce the news to the world.

It would be laughable, if you did not listen to the callers on Harold’s show. Last night a couple were asking about their three year old baby. “Will our baby be saved?” Their baby can’t speak yet for herself and can’t pray so they have her close by as they read their bible and pray fearfully for salvation. But how can they help their baby be saved?

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said in our readings at Mass yesterday. “In my  Father’s house there are many mansions.”

Harold’s God isn’t mine.

Random Harvest

I watched an old movie classic from the 1940s a few nights ago, Random Harvest, starring Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson. Beautiful film; never saw it before.

A soldier, Charles Ranier, who’s lost his memory in the 1st World War, is saved by Paula, a lovely woman who befriends him, then marries him and finally pursues him after he regains his memory following a street accident in Liverpool three years later.

Traumatized by war, Charles suffers from forgetfulness. Even though he regains his memory and finds his birth family and becomes a successful businessman and politician, there are vital parts of his life he can’t remember.

Only gradually does he regain those lost important memories. Paula, who knows those years and the love he found there, is a quiet patient presence, gently prodding him to remember.

Forgetfulness is a common subject in the history of spirituality. Often enough, the Old Testament comments on the times God’s people forget their God and his ways, traumatized by life good and bad. But God does not forget us. He remembers and reminds and restores our forgotten life.

“Remember” we often say in our prayer.  “Remember us, O Lord.” “Be patient with us, O Lord.”Unless you remind us we cannot remember.

Bread and Wine

After the homily at every Sunday Mass, we pray the Creed, that sweeping summary of what we believe as Christians.  We say it before we bring the bread and wine to the altar because it helps us understand what we’re doing. It begins:

We believe in God the Father Almighty,

creator of heaven and earth,

of all that is seen and unseen.

Bread and wine are symbols of the heavens and the earth– the world God has made. They represent the totality of God’s gifts found in creation which we acknowledge as we bring them to their Creator:

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.” “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of many hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

These simple gifts stand for all the gifts that come from an almighty God, a kind Father, the generous One who made the heavens and earth, the Maker “of all that is seen and unseen.” They point to a God, beyond our minds grasp, a good God, who is with us always; a loving God who is our friend.

They  represent God’s promise of life everlasting.

The prayers at Mass address God, the Creator. “All life, all holiness comes from you,” (3rd Eucharistic Prayer) “All things are of your making, all times and seasons obey your laws,” (P33) “In you we live and move and have our being. Each day you show us a Father’s love.(P34)

At Mass we approach God, Maker of all.

As Creator, God doesn’t act alone, but shares power with his creation. Our prayers at Mass recognize that: “You formed us in your own likeness, and set us over the whole world in all its wonder. You made us the stewards of creation to serve you our creator and to rule over all creatures.” (P33)

As “stewards of creation” we have an important role in the world, but we’re not the only power in our universe.  Creation itself has rights and a role in God’s plan. As we come to know the story of our own universe, we’re amazed at its mysterious development, its complexity and its beauty. It’s charged with the glory of God, and so for all our importance, we’re  meant to be respectful participants in its story.

That’s the vision of faith our Mass offers. But is it true? Our experience of life can sometimes tempt us to doubt it. Is God really the creator of us all? Does God really care? Why do bad things happen? Why do people do what they do? Why do we die? Why is there suffering? Why is there injustice. Questions like that raise doubts. Then too, preoccupation with ourselves also can weaken our vision of faith. We think we are the creators of the world and its gods.

The Mass tells the story of creation, but also the story of salvation. The Creed reminds us that God sent his only Son to be our Savior. In the mystery of the Mass, Jesus Christ is sent into the world. He comes into the bread and wine, just as he came into the womb of Mary.  Listen to the words of one of our prayers.

“Father, you so loved the world,

that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior.

He was conceived through the Holy Spirit,

and born of the Virgin Mary,

one like us in all things but sin.

To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation,

to prisoners, freedom,

to those in sorrow, joy.

In fulfillment of your will

he gave himself up to death,

but by rising from the dead,

he destroyed death and restored life.

And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him,

he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father,

as his first gift to those who believe,

to complete his work on earth

and bring us the fulness of grace.”

The prayer goes on to ask God, the Father, to send his Holy Spirit upon the bread and the wine, as he did on Mary.

“Father, send your Holy Spirit to sanctify these offerings,

Let them become the body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord

as we celebrate the great mystery

which he left us as an everlasting covenant.” (4th Eucharistic Prayer)

Our Mass is a creation story and a story of salvation.