Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The question of saving
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the January 16, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
Already by the turn of the calendar we have taken a step into the New Year. The Christmas Feast is now a few weeks past and we have launched headlong into whatever may lie ahead. Liturgically speaking, we have re-entered “Ordinary Time.” Here is where our faith and spirituality find their lasting vitality, as well as their test. If what we have celebrated at Christmas does not make a difference in the cadence of our ordinary, daily lives, the value and purpose of our celebration should be questioned.
The obvious focus of our Christmas celebration was the birth of our Savior, Jesus, the Christ of God. Every year I am struck by that title: “Savior.” The very name, Jesus, means “God saves.” It is more than an identification tag. It reflects the purpose or mission of the Little One encountered in that crib in Bethlehem. God, the self-revealing ground of all Being, “saves us” in Jesus, born of Mary. The beauty of it all is that God’s saving grace, life-giving love – call it what we want – becomes present and active in human relationships.
To refer to Jesus as Savior is to confess that a relationship with him is the ultimate source of our personal destiny and salvation. Although it could be noted that our redemption has been accomplished once and for all time in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, as a free gift of grace, all that makes little difference if our own openness to a relationship with him does not allow that redemptive grace to become a reality for us now. Saving relationships are not a one-way street. Without a response in faith on our part, salvation remains a mere fact of history and a tidy theological statement.
In religion class I often pose the question: “Could God have saved us by becoming a garden slug?” The theologically clever (and misdirected) students might respond, “Yes, if that is what God wanted to do” – but they would miss the entire point of the Incarnation. The A+ goes to the student who recognizes that salvation for us human beings must come on our terms, in a sense; it must meet us in the reality in which we live. A very profound part of that reality is our hunger for happiness, fulfilment and life, and our search for it, above all, in relationships with others like us. Maturity blossoms in that search when we come to realize increasingly that fullness of life cannot be found in things, appearance, and stunning experiences, but only in people. It’s then that we can begin understanding the excitement of the Good News: that it is precisely in human relationships where God encounters us and saves us.
Relationships are not throw-away commodities. People are not disposable. In every relationship we have, we 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 genuine married love. These sacraments of God’s presence are the living experience which roots us in our understanding of Jesus as Savior. If we cannot understand, accept and nurture friendship and married love, how will we ever will be capable of entering into a genuine saving relationship with Jesus?
The little saviors in our lives – those individuals whose 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.
If we can accept friendships in this way, they can become more for us than companionship for football games, camping trips, or shopping sprees. Gone will be the fear of particular friendships, which a misdirected spirituality saw as a threat to a relationship with God. If we can accept marriage in this manner, then it will become more than an opportunity for cohabitation or a framework for raising children. Gone will be the temperament of passion which a former spirituality reduced in importance.
We need not canonize our friends and spouses, but we benefit wonderfully when we discover in them God’s saving grace. The incarnation celebrated at Christmas continues into Ordinary Time.
(Father Savelesky, who serves as the diocese’s Moderator of the Curia, is pastor of the parishes in Oakesdale, Rosalia, St. John, and Tekoa.)
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