Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

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

Savior for you

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 20, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky “Soon … and very soon,” as the verse from a popular Advent song announces, the Great Feast of Christmas will be upon us! It’s now only a matter of days!

Despite the cultural clamor and distracting glitter which is popular even for us Christians, the focus of our Christmas celebration once again will be the centuries-old but ever-so-fresh embrace of the Good News of the birth of the Savior of the world.

There is something very striking in that title: Savior. The festive dance which is Christmas rejoices that God “saves us” in Jesus, born of Mary. The beauty of it all is that God’s saving grace – or life-giving love; call it what we want – becomes present and touches us in a human relationship.

To refer to Jesus as “Savior” – with a capital “S” – is to confess that a relationship with him is the ultimate source of our personal salvation. Although our redemption has been accomplished in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus once-and-for-all as a free gift of grace, the gift makes little difference if our own openness to a relationship with Jesus does not allow that grace of redemption to become a reality for us. Saving relationships are not a one-way street. Without a response in faith on our part, salvation in Jesus Christ remains packaged as a mere fact of history and a tidy theological statement.

In adult religious education class I often confront participants with the question: “Could God have saved us by becoming a garden slug?” The theologically clever (and misdirected) respond, “Yes, if that is what God wanted to do” – but they miss the entire point. The kudos go to the one who recognizes that salvation for us human beings must come on our terms, in a sense. It must meet us at the heart of the reality in which we live. A very profound part of that reality is our hunger for fullness of life, and our search for it in relationships. Maturity gradually develops in that search as we realize that the fullness of life cannot be found in things, but in people. It’s then that we can begin to understand the excitement of Christmas: that it is precisely in human relationships where God encounters us and saves us. To paraphrase one of my favorite theologians: “God so loves us that he creates us with a need for him so that he can fill it.”

People are not disposable. Relationships are not throw-away commodities. In every relationship with another person, we can experience a glimpse of God’s saving grace. Dare we make bold and admit that God saves us in and through other persons like ourselves! Each and every person is a “little savior.” He or she is not The Savior, obviously; but they are savior.

Nowhere can this amazing grace of saving relationships be seen more beautifully than in genuine friendships and in true married love. These sacraments of God’s presence are the living experience which roots us in our understanding of Jesus himself as Savior. If we cannot understand, accept and nurture friendship and married love, it is doubtful if we ever will be capable of entering fully into a genuine saving relationship with Jesus.

The little “saviors” in our lives – those individuals whose ever-increasing unconditional love and commitment to us brings such happiness and life – lead us to the Savior. They make real and tangible for us the truth about God which we hold in our hearts. In our hunger for fulfilling relationships with one another, we experience our hunger for God. In letting friends and spouses touch and transform us with their love, we allow God to save us. God’s Word becomes incarnate in them in a unique manner, and through them we are brought to life. Through them we are brought to God.

If we can accept friendships in this way, they can become more for us than companionship for football games, dinner parties or shopping sprees. We need not canonize our friends and spouses, but we benefit wonderfully when we discover in them God’s saving grace. Is it any wonder that we try our best to be with them in person for the Great Christmas Feast! It is there where we speak God’s language, rejoicing in the Word he has spoken to us in Jesus.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish, Spokane, and director of the diocese’s Deacon Formation Program.)

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