Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the May 19, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)
More and more people have been watching the stock market these days with an eagle’s eye. Hearts soar as stock prices rise – even a little. And spirits take a dive when they plummet. Of course, all of this is narrated for the general public on daily (even hourly) newscasts and it fills columns of print. Hardly a day goes by in which we don’t hear something about the state of our nation’s economy or that of the world.
“Economy” is one of those general concepts that represents a rather complex interplay of many forces. It isn’t something that one can find sitting on the shelf at the local grocery store. The economy is more like a group effort in which everyone gets to play and whose efforts affect everyone else (for better or for worse). Mr. Webster calls this “the functional arrangement of elements within a structure or system.” (A bit abstract for the common mind, I’d say.)
All of us have some notion of what the use of the word “economy” means. We may not know how it all works, but we do know it’s out there and has its effect on our daily lives. When we hear “economy” we automatically think of money, debts, stocks and bonds, banking and other elements related to financial institutions.
Imagine my puzzlement, then, when one of my old seminary professors kept referring in class to the “economy of salvation.” At first I couldn’t figure out how money had anything to do with God’s love! Then I mused that perhaps he was making reference to some mysterious Greek word structure. Careful listening, however, brought to light that his choice of words was quite intentional. He was talking about God’s unfolding plan of salvation!
These days when the media blares so much at us about the economy, I find myself reflecting often of his unusual use of this word “economy.” Would Mr. Webster speak of God’s saving grace in human history as a “functional arrangement of elements within a structure or system?” Well, maybe Mr. Webster and my brilliant professor would, but most of us would not.
Regardless of the choice of words to describe the reality of God’s saving work in the world, the reality remains the same. Further reflection has convinced me that my professor chose a precisely correct word to describe that reality. Salvation, or “economy of salvation,” is indeed a general concept that represents a rather complex interplay of many forces. All of us are participants and all of us benefit from what God has done for humankind, particularly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But should we not also add to this list: his Ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit? After all, our understanding of the economy of salvation would not be complete without adding the latter.
The economic structure of any nation has its identifiable parts. The full reality of what’s going on cannot be fully grasped without taking into consideration all these parts and their interplay. So, too, it is with the economy of salvation – as my seminary professor would rightfully insist. It is easy for us Christians to identify a single aspect of the story of salvation, seeing all of God’s action solely from that narrow vantage point. His point was important: God’s action of saving grace in our world must be seen from a broader perspective than just a single one. All of the elements must be seen together. Jesus was not just conceived, born, lived, ministered, died and then rose from the dead. Most of us have these parts of the story down well.
If that’s all there is to the story, however, then God’s “economy of salvation” falls short of its purpose. There
are two more elements: the Ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit. Without them the story of salvation is in
danger of being but an historical memory. It would not be totally without its effect – but there is more. In God’s plan of
salvation, Jesus returns to his heavenly Father in order that the Holy Spirit could be sent upon us believers who, in turn,
build up all things in Christ until the end of time. The Ascension of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the last
chapters in God’s unfolding plan of salvation – until “The End” flashes on the screen of history. The Ascension and
Pentecost are intimately connected with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They bless us with partnership with God
in the salvation of the world. They convert the memory of Jesus and his redemption into God’s continuing act of saving
grace for our world, precisely through us believers who have life in God’s Holy Spirit.
There is something very incomplete and academically abstract in our understanding of God’s economy of salvation, unless it comes alive in us and we are moved into action by the Holy Spirit given by the ascended and risen Lord. That, in fact, has happened. All that remains is for believing disciples to open their hearts, embrace God’s saving presence, and get to work. By the grace of God’s Holy Spirit, we Christians are agents of an economy which does more than stuff bank accounts and raise standards of living. Updates about this “economy” should make every heart soar!
(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics
Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.)
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