What Does It Mean To Be Saved
Twenty-Eighth Week of Year II Tuesday October 11, 2016
In the Responsorial Psalm we say, “I revere your commandments, and I will meditate on your statutes.” But our trust is based on God’s “steadfast love”: “Let your loving kindness come to me, O Lord” (Psalm 119).
In Galatians 5:1-6 Paul writes: “You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Strong words! And he continues, “the only thing that counts is faith working through love.”
What does it mean to be “justified by faith?”
For Christians “justified” means to receive the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which is the favor of sharing in God’s divine life. No human “works” of good behavior can make us divine; only grace.
To receive grace we have to be incorporated into the body of Jesus on the cross, die in him, and let him rise from the dead “multiplied” in us, his risen body on earth. This is why our sins are “taken away” instead of just forgiven, “covered over,” or overlooked. It is because we who sinned died and rose as a “new creation” in Christ.1
So what tells us we are “saved” is not our record of good behavior, but our faith in the mystery of redemption revealed in God’s word: that by Baptism we died “in Christ” and rose again in him to live as members of the body of Christ, living by the divine life of God.
Paul exhorts us to, “stand firm,” as faithful stewards of this truth, by focusing our hearts, not on law-observance, but on union of mind and heart and will with God. “Salvation” is a gift of God’s love. Our confidence is based, not on our perseverance in good behavior, but on God’s “steadfast love,” shown in Jesus Christ. “Let your loving kindness come to me, O Lord”
In Luke 11: 37-41 Jesus teaches this by the “prophetic gesture” of not keeping the Jewish rule of washing before a meal. The Pharisee, who was more focused on whether Jesus was keeping the rules than on who Jesus was or what he was saying, was shocked — just as the “Pharisee party” in the Church today (and in every day) is more focused on keeping rules than on understanding the mind of God or of the Church that inspired the rules.
Jesus used the incident to teach us all to change our focus from “cleaning the outside” of our visible behavior to purifying the inside of our hearts. Do we find there “greed and wickedness” or the “fruit of the Spirit… love, joy and peace?”2
1John 12:24; Romans 6: 3-8; 2Corinthians 5:17, 21. 2Galatians 5: 22.