Are you saved? Am I saved? There was a time period years ago when many of us Catholics were bombarded with this question. Laity wondered what this expression “to be saved” meant. Clergy looked for a way to help parishioners answer the question when asked by Protestant family and friends.
What might we be saved from? What are we saved for? Certainly we are not “saved” for another day.
One of the first times — of many — that Pope Francis seemed to shake people up was when he said, “Yes, even atheist can go to heaven!”
What??? Even atheists can go to heaven — and be saved? What about the requirement of baptism? What about a personal relationship with Jesus? What about knowing Jesus? Come on — I thought I belonged to some kind of special class of folks, some exclusive group! If even atheists can go to heaven, then, what is so special about that?
Like today, there were folks in the time of Jesus who believed that being saved was LIMITED to a special group of people — the chosen ones. [Luke 13:22-30] “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” As so often happened, Jesus did not directly answer the question posed to him. Then comes a stinging — rebuke: There will be those who will stand outside and knock — asking the Lord to open the door — and then they will hear: “I do not know where you are from.” Whoa, Lord! Don’t you remember me — I ate and drank in your company —- you taught on my street” Look a little closer, Lord. It’s me ….I use to sit on the left side of the church —- 5 or six rows from the back. I was in the Knights of Columbus and my wife taught CCD. Remember, she made those great pralines for the bizarre. Every Christmas we donated extra money for poinsettias.
AND THEN, THEIR HEARTS SANK — again, the Lord says, “I do not know where you are from.”
Jesus really does not tell us what his kingdom is going to be like — he does not give us a picture of what happens in the kingdom —- he does tell us that there will be people from the four corners of the earth …….AND, there will be some who are last — those thought to be among the least — who will be first. And, worst of all — THOSE who are thought to be among the high and mighty, the rich and powerful — WHO WILL BE LAST IN THE KINGDOM.
Last Sunday in Rome, Pope Francis, in speaking to the crowd in the square outside St. Peter’s at the noon Angelus — challenged us to make sure that our faith was not a mere ornament — that our faith not be like icing on a cake —- rather, our faith is to be the fuel that drives the engine — our faith and the living of faith — is our reason for being. This kind of faith cannot be superficial, skin deep.
This kind of FAITH — is so much more than being a Catholic or a Lutheran or an Episcopalian or a Baptist — this kind of FAITH is so much more going to Church and embracing religious practices.
We know Jesus and Jesus knows us not merely through water-baptism — we know Jesus and Jesus knows us through lifestyle that rejects violence and bigotry. We know Jesus and Jesus knows us by reaching out to people in need — in our homes, in our parish, in our nursing homes.
I remember shaking the hand of the first President Bush. Does that mean he knows me? Hardly!! I was once in an audience in Chicago where Bishop Tutu was speaking. I was impressed with what he said and motivated by his witness. But, if I had called out, “Heh, Bishop Tutu ….. over here, it is me!” I am sure he would have been quite nonplussed.
Let us be proud of our faith! Let us be proud of where we go to church! Let us be faithful to community worship. BUT, let us not fool ourselves. To experience the kingdom of God in the here and now — IN THIS TIME AND PLACE — we have to do more than go through the motions. We have to work at doing good and being good. We have to THINK like a follower of Jesus —- we have reject the evil and choose the good. We have to look into our hearts and let go of the sadness, the bitterness, the jealousy, the judgmental nature.
Then as we live in the kingdom in the here and now ….. we are on the road to the eternal kingdom.
By his death on the cross, Jesus saved me and he saved you ….. he saved everyone who embraces his way of thinking —- regardless of the label we put on ourselves or the label someone else puts on us. While not presuming we have it made, we live as kingdom people — good caring folk. We’ve been saved — now we have to live like we have been saved.