07 May 2006

Are you saved?

4th Sunday of Easter: Acts 4.8-12; 1 John 3.1-2; John 10.11-18
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Paul’s Hospital and Church of the Incarnation

Are you saved? Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior? Do you know Jesus?

As a Catholic, how do you understand your salvation? When we talk about our redemption, what do you hear? If you were asked by a Protestant friend—“Are you saved?”—what would you say? Another (more indirect) way to ask this same question: what are you doing here this morning? Why are you here? Meeting an obligation? Did mama drag you outta bed? Roommates badgered you into showing up? Guilt? Habit? Piety? The need for true worship? The presence of the Risen Lord in the sacrament? Why are you here? Answer me that and you can answer me this: “Are you saved?”

I grew up in rural Mississippi surrounded by bible-believing Baptists—hard-core, heart-felt, deep-down Jesus folks who were assured of their salvation, in the possession of the perfect knowledge of their redemption. There was no doubt, no wavering, not even a passing shadow of uncertainty that Jesus is Lord. Their personal encounter with Christ defines who they are and who they will become: upright, moral people, righteous, God-fearing and heaven-bound. Salvation for them is a picture painted with bright lines, pure colors, perfectly framed. And it hangs in the center of their lives.

Do you as a Catholic understand what it means to be in a redeeming relationship with the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit?

Peter in Acts, John in his letter and his gospel this morning point us unswervingly to the conclusion that for us to be saved in Christ we must become Christ; we share in his passion, death, and resurrection. There is no other name under heaven given to us by which we can saved. We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed, but we do know that when what we will be is revealed we shall be like him. Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” I will lay down my life for my sheep. I can lay down my life and pick it up again. And he can pick us up with him. Brothers and sisters, see what love the father has bestowed on us—He became man so that we might become God!

Are you saved? Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior? Why are you here this morning? I hope you are here this morning to confess your sins and hear God’s mercy; to listen to the Word proclaimed and preached; to offer praise and thanksgiving to God; to say again with us “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty;” to ask for what you need and to ask for others what they need; to place yourself—your worries, your loves, your resentments, jealousies, your impatience, yourself—all of you, placed on the altar with the bread and wine to be offered to God, sacrificed, made holy in surrender.

I hope you are here this morning to say AMEN to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, to his suffering, death, and resurrection; to this moment of eternity brought down for us to draw us back up, to catch us up in his glory—body, soul, divinity—to make us his children, his heirs.

I hope you are here this morning to eat his body and drink his blood, to take into your bodies his very person, to reap the harvest of his gift of himself to us, for us. And I hope you are here this morning to learn, to come to know that your salvation, your redemption is accomplished in this sacrifice of the altar, this liturgy of deification. We are not acting out a play here. We are not mumbling a script or miming a drama. We are not here to “git ‘r done” in time for lunch. We are here to cooperate in the redemption of our bodies and our souls! What we do here this morning is the public work of making us all Christs, the work of our Triune God in transforming us, perfecting us, making us like Him.

The great Dominican theologian, Fr. Jean Corbon, writes of our redemption in the Mass: “From offertory to [the moment the priest calls down the Spirit] and from [that moment] to communion the Spirit can then ceaselessly divinize us; our life becomes a Eucharist until the [image of God that we are] is completely transformed into him who is the splendor of the Father.” Perfectly said!

For Catholics, to be redeemed is not to be “holistically integrated as a person,” if by this we mean nothing more than to be made psychologically balanced. Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again to clear up a DSM-IV diagnosis. For Catholics, to be redeemed is not to be “made one with Earth.” All of creation will be redeemed in time, but Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again to show us the way to Gaia, Earth Mother. For Catholics, to be redeemed is not to be “absorbed into the Universal Oneness.” Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again so that we might be dissolved into stardust and spend eternity dodging gravity wells and rouge comets. For Catholics, to be redeemed is not to be “liberated from oppressive hierarchies and socio-economic structures of exclusion.” Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again to spark an elitist social revolution that worships the totalitarianism of political correctness and moral anarchy.

For Catholics, to be redeemed is to be made a child of the Father through the freely made sacrifice of the Son in the love of the Holy Spirit. To be redeemed is to be repaired, to be rescued, to be healed. We are found by our shepherd. Beloved as children; raised from the dead by the Only Name given to us for our salvation. To be redeemed is to be brought to Him as an offering, a sacrifice; made holy, perfected in His image and likeness. To be redeemed is to be transformed into Christ through Christ.

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God!

The proper response, the only response worthy of this gift is to live your life in sacrificial thanksgiving—giving thanks to God by serving all His children in charity, by taking His Word to the world in hope, by offering to Him the course and plan of your life in faith; loving, hoping, trusting; knowing that our Father gives us an inheritance, an eternal estate.

Are you saved? Yes, every time you celebrate this liturgy. Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior? Yes, and even better: you’ve eaten his Body and Blood! Do you know Jesus? You know him and he knows you. He is the Good Shepherd and you are his brothers and sisters.

Now, having cleared all that up, it’s time for the really tough question: watching you, listening to you, do the people who see you everyday, do they you know you as Christ?

1 comment:

  1. Patty Medaille3:05 PM

    Your homily reminds me of something I talk about with my students (7th graders). "You are what you eat." On a purely biological level, this means that the food we consume breaks down into its most basic components and is then delivered to every cell of our bodies to nourish us. As Catholics, we know that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ; when we eat His body and drink His blood, He really, truly, physically becomes part of our bodies.

    Junior high is a difficult time. Often, kindness is punished and brutality rewarded in the social hierarchy of young adolescence. If the students (and if we adults) can learn to see Christ not only in the hearts and souls of our brothers and sisters, but in every cell of their bodies, this new sight cannot help but lead to renewed respect and love for one another. Likewise, it should lead to new respect for the self -- a self-respect that fosters resistance to the abuse of the body through extramarital sex, drugs, and alcohol.

    Thank you for sharing your homily. May peace be with you -