Two of the great mysteries of our faith are creation and redemption. Our God is a Creator, the one who gives life; our God is a Redeemer, saving us from sin and death. During Lent, we are invited to re-taste the story of God’s love as manifest in salvation history.
Here is a word of caution lest we become arrogant in our supposed theological knowledge: “We know enough to get in on the life of salvation personally by repenting and believing and following Jesus, the architect and pioneer of salvation. But when all is said and done, we don’t know very much. Most of what goes on in salvation is beyond us; we live a mystery. We make our way through life in a ‘cloud of unknowing’” (152). (cf. Eugene H. Peterson’s “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: a conversation in spiritual theology”)
But we do know “something” about salvation. We know that it is grounded in God’s love for us, a love that sent his son into our world not for condemnation but for redemption. Jesus is the light that shines in darkness. Our task is to receive that light and love, and therefore God’s life. We must turn from a life of sin. Whatever diminishes life and love is to be forgone.
We know that salvation comes from a God who is “rich in mercy,” as St. Paul reminds us. St. Paul is clear and direct: “It is owed to his favor that salvation is yours through faith.” We do not earn redemption; we cannot save ourselves. Rather, God’s grace is freely given and we are to be its happy recipients. Creation, through Christ, is restored.
We do not know that God redeems at times through human mediation. God selects certain individuals and cultures to distribute the gift of grace as God wills. In the second book of Chronicles we read how the king of Persia, Cyrus by name, became an instrument in God’s plan of liberation for the Israelites. In our own day, individuals like Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Dorothy Day and John Paul II “channel” God’s love and mercy through their ministry and writings.
And we do know that after the Easter mysteries we will celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is that Spirit, dwelling in us now, that empowers us to hear and to live God’s word. In other words, it is the Trinitarian life — the life of God as Creator, God as Redeemer, God as Sanctifier — that is the root and ground of our salvation.
Salvation is a great mystery. We struggle to understand it. But of even greater importance, is that we experience it by our participating in the paschal mystery — the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Here is the source of our hope and our peace.
Questions for reflection
1. What do you know about the process of salvation?
2. Who are the people God sent into your life to bring about healing?
3. Is salvation readily available to all?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.