Again, “We adore God Who is love, Who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him.” (Pope Francis, 6/21/14)
Jesus comes to save. On this all Churches would agree. That Jesus comes to save humanity from evil, sin and death in all their manifestations, and to save humanity from nothing short of evil, sin and death, most Churches would agree. But as we have been noting throughout these FAST FOOD Helpings, how He is to do this, “There’s the rub.” Writing on the topic of salvation in his DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE (Imprimatur, 1965), Rev. John L. McKenzie states,
“One of the recurring heresies of Christian history has been the belief that salvation could be finally and completely achieved by a single act, whether that act be conceived as the predestination of God, the saving death of Jesus, or the reception of faith and baptism. There is in the text of the New Testament a massive witness to the teaching that the salvation conferred by the death of Jesus and accepted by faith and baptism and membership in the Church the body of Christ is real and genuine, but inchoate. It demands growth and is finally achieved in the eschatological event which marks the term of human history… The reception of salvation by the saved is conceived as a process rather than a single act.”
What is this process by which salvation is completed? Jesus says it is a process that requires metanoia, a change of mind that repudiates the old self, the old self-understanding and the old master who is being served. This involves choosing to freely enter into the moment-to-moment struggle of putting on a new mind, a new self, a new self-understanding and of accepting to follow a new Master of one’s consciousness and conscience, and mutatis mutandis of one’s behavior.
So what is the content of this change of mind and of this process by which salvation is completed? It is love (agape) of the type that the Nonviolent Jesus teaches by His words and deeds in the Gospels, where it is presented in its most vivid and efficacious manifestation in His response to His torturers and murderers, that is, in His passion and death—and by the fruit of that response, namely, His resurrection.
It is God Who is love (agape), the Father of all, to whom Jesus says in Gethsemane, “Your will be done, not mine.” The will of the God, Who is love, for any human being and all human beings, including His Son, must be to love in all circumstances and under all conditions in which a person finds himself or herself. Identity with the suffering and death of Jesus is identity with Jesus loving as God loves out of love for and obedience to God. A Christian shares in the saving act of Jesus’ death and resurrection by loving as Jesus loves, not by merely suffering and dying like any other mammal. This is the content of the process that completes the salvation process.
Only God can save, but God is love and hence wills to save out of love and by love. Jesus freely chose to obey the loving will of God in every second of every moral act of His life up to and including His torture and murder. Union with Jesus and sharing in His saving act of love is ever more deeply entered into by the process of the Christian’s obedience to that same loving will, that God made visible in Jesus, during every second of every act in every circumstance in which the Christian finds himself or herself. Simply said, but not more simply said than the Gospels say it, the process that completes the salvation brought by Jesus Christ is to “love one another as I have loved you.”
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy (To be continued)