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
It's the economy
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the May 24, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
In these nervous economic times, many keen eyes have been watching the stock market. Surely hearts soar as stock prices rise. And spirits plummet when they dive. 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 donít hear something about the state of our nationís economy or that of the world.
ďEconomyĒ is one of those general concepts that represents a rather complex interplay of many forces. It isnít something that one can find sitting on the shelf at the grocery store. The economy is more like a collective effort in which everyone gets to play and from which everyone benefits as well (for better or for worse). ďThe functional arrangement of elements within a structure or system,Ē is how Mr. Webster tells it. Now, howís that for an abstract concept!
When someone uses the word ďeconomy,Ē all of us have some notion of what they mean. We may not know how it all works, but we do know itís out there and has its effect on our daily lives. When we hear ďeconomyĒ we all 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 his lectures to the ďeconomy of salvation.Ē At first I thought he was using some ancient Greek or Hebrew word, but investigation proved that his choice of words was quite purposeful. It also reflected a level of vocabulary which was above the heads of his students! I certainly couldnít figure out how money had anything to do with Godís love!
These days, when the media blares so much at us about the economy, I have been thinking often of this use of this word to talk about Godís unfolding plan of salvation. Would Mr. Webster speak of Godís saving grace in human history as a ďfunctional arrangement of elements within a structure or systemĒ? Well, maybe Mr. Webster and my old professor would, but most of us would not.
Regardless of the choice of words to describe the reality, the reality remains the same. The professor had chosen an absolutely correct word to describe that reality. Salvation, or ďeconomy of salvation,Ē is indeed a general concept that represents a rather complex interplay of many realities. 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 whatís 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. It is easy for us Christians to identify a single aspect of the story of salvation, seeing all of Godís action solely from that narrow vantage point. My professorís point was important: Godís action of saving grace in our world must be seen from a broader perspective than just a single one.
Jesus was not just conceived, born, lived, ministered, died and rose. Most of us have these parts of the story down well.
If thatís all there is to the story, however, then Godís economy of salvation falls short. 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 Ė but there is more.
In Godís 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 Godís unfolding plan of salvation. 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 Godís continuing act of saving grace for our world, precisely through us believers who have life in Godís Holy Spirit.
There is something very incomplete in our understanding of Godís economy of salvation until 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 Godís saving presence, and get to work. By the grace of Godís Holy Spirit, we are all beneficiaries of an economy which does more than stuff bank accounts and raise standards of living. We Christians are the beneficiaries of life!
(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)
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