The church is supposed to be about salvation. But what is salvation, really?
Grace MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Readers are welcome to submit questions about the Catholic faith to: Grace MacKinnon, 1234 Russell Drive #103, Brownsville, Texas 78520. Questions also may be sent by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may visit Grace online at www.DearGrace.com.
This is an excellent topic to discuss at Easter time because salvation is what Easter is all about. Let us explain this in the simplest terms. Salvation — eternal salvation, that is — is ultimately about getting to heaven — it is the open door. If you ask most people, they would say, “Yes, I want to get to heaven.” But many do not understand that in order to accomplish that, they must be “saved.” “Saved from what?” they might ask. The answer is that to enter heaven, we must first be saved from the power of sin. And what is sin? It is when we have freely and willingly chosen to disobey or offend God.
On a day-to-day basis, many people do not think very much about salvation, do they? They may not even realize or believe that they are in need of being saved. This is because so often we have allowed the evil one and the “world” to convince us that what we have here on earth is all there is.
God created the human race out of love, and His purpose or plan was that mankind would love Him back and live in perfect communion with Him for all eternity. But in order for man to be capable of true love, God had to give man to himself so that man would then be able to give himself back to God. In other words, he had to be made free. And it was precisely this freedom that brought with it the possibility of sin – the possibility of a disobedience or rejection of God.
Thus, when our first parents Adam and Eve freely disobeyed God, sin entered the world, and it was then that salvation became necessary so that the communion with God could be restored. This was the mission of Jesus Christ – to reconcile the world with God (2 Corinthians 5: 18ff). He, who was God, came because of His boundless love to die on the Cross in order to “save” all mankind. This is why Easter is truly a celebration of our salvation — we were saved from eternal damnation by the powerful passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without His sacrifice, there would be no possibility of heaven for you and me.
And yes, you are right, the Church is about salvation. Jesus knew that, even after He had redeemed us, on our own we would never make it to heaven because the temptation to sin has such a strong hold on us. So He established a Church and gave to her the task of completing His mission saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age” (Matthew 28: 19-20).
Jesus opened the door and continues to lead the way through His Church, but we must work out our salvation by following Him. And we do this by obeying the Church’s teachings because they are His teachings. Explaining how the Church is the sacrament of salvation, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Church “is the visible plan of God's love for humanity,” because God desires “that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit” (CCC # 776). God wants everyone to be saved! And He gives us everything we need to be saved.
To believe in Christ is to follow Him. How can we expect to enter heaven if we have freely and willfully disobeyed Him? We must make every effort to work out our salvation every day. Consider the following: “Every action of yours, every thought, should be [that] of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience. Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren't fit to face death today, it's very unlikely you will be tomorrow” (The Imitation of Christ, 1, 23, 1).
Jesus overcame death when He rose on Easter morning. Easter is the open door to heaven. We must therefore do everything to defeat sin in our lives so that, when the time comes, we will find ourselves ready to walk through that door and join our Savior there.
© Copyright 2003 Grace D. MacKinnon