Monday, August 07, 2006

What Price Salvation?

We like to think that as Catholics we are welcoming in our Parish to all people, yet are we? If a man or woman of ill repute came to our Church would you welcome them with a smile that would melt snow or would your reflection be icingly chilly? If a beggar dressed in rags came into your Church would you sniff and wonder at his audacity to enter YOUR Church and ask what on earth is HE doing amongst the 'saved'?

This begs the question does Salvation come with a price tag that only the elite can pay and the poor are left to themselves as we smugly attend Mass and do all the 'godly' things that Catholics are supposed to perform. Are we miserly with our love and give only to the deserving few and then with a sense of self satisfaction from helping them we can then continue our smug and self righteous existance. Is it a case where the Saved are too safe to Save? Whether we wish to acknowledge this or not our very attitudes may cause another to stumble in their faith journey. When it comes to the Salvation of other souls we too must play our part for if it were not for God none of us would be saved.

God has given us different Gifts but do we use them or do we horde them to ourselves and only give lip service in order to impress those around us with our perceived 'virtues'. A couple did just this and received a reprove from Peter and a Judgment from God as we read in Acts, "A man named Ananias, however, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. He retained for himself, with his wife's knowledge, some of the purchase price, took the remainder, and put it at the feet of the apostles. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God." (Acts 1:1-4).

Until we recognise our own poverty and realise how much we owe to our Gracious and giving God we will withhold our love from those who most need it and instead believe ourselves to be the holder and maker of this love. Because a person who refuses to love or expects a receipt for the love given is in the erroneous belief that they are the source of their love, and therefore they can be 'choosy' to whom they give it.

We also see an example of this in the writings of Karen Blixen in her parable of her book 'Babettes Feast'. This woman, Babette was destitute and upon arriving at the spinsters house she observed the unsmiling and rigid legalism of a faith ruled without passion or authentic love. The unsmiling Christians had no joy they had made God into a killjoy, they had become habitual Christians, they gave nothing and so received little in return. Till one day Babette wins a small amount of money, many expected her to spend this money on herself to horde her goods as they had horded their spiritual goods. Babette though had a different idea, what she did astounded all, she spent her money on a wasteful FEAST a sumptuous delight, a transitory moment of bliss. Babette gave all she had to those who needed much more than food. It is the same with God, for the Triune Spirit waits upon us to receive His Gifts when our hands are open. God cannot give a Gift to a closed fist. Babette taught the township the JOY of exuberant giving till the last cent, without counting the cost.

We need to understand when it comes down to the nitty gritty and we had to pay God for our Salvation who amongt us could equal God in Loving without prospect of it being returned. Who could pay God for their own salvation? Who amongst us is that perfect that we equal God? When we place conditions on our love we are indeed taking God's place and have forgotten God's Merciful love when it comes to each of us, for we too were once the unsaved. It took Christ's death on a Cross to undo the sting of death. As the Book of Mathew cautions us to use our talents that has been given to us as Gift from above and to share these Gifts unstintingly for as the Word teaches us, "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

Until we can recognise the face of Christ in those we meet we will remain in spiritual blindness as the spirit of self preservation takes precedence over selfless love. We must also recognise the face of Christ within ourselves lest our God given Gifts and talents lay within us dormant.

When was the last time you connected with someone who is of a lesser social status than yourselves? Not in a lady bountiful way but in a way of respect and esteeming those who most need it. as Blessed Mother Theresa said so eloquently, "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." In these dangerous times it can be impossible to help the homeless or those who are addicted to hard drugs, but does that also mean that those who have been forgotten in nursing homes deserve no love or compassion? The elderly who are trapped in their homes either by fear or by incapacity do they also fall into the 'forgotten I'm too busy for you' box?

There is no worse feeling than to be unneeded, unwanted and unloved. Yet for all those who attend Mass out of habit rather than joy do you not resemble the legalistic people in Babettes feast?

When we come together as a community this community spirit should also be reaching out in true and sincere hospitality to those who need Jesus most. For Jesus came to save the sick. Those who had been tossed aside by their peers as beneath them, Jesus can do little with the self satisfied, for what can you give to the person who presumes to think they have it all? Once again the Word instructs us, "Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?...What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."(James 2:5, 16,17).

God created the Church so ALL men can be saved it is man who makes distinctions.

For those who speak FOR God will answer TO God.

Peace of Christ to you ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

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