Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Are You Saved?

Homily on the 23rd Sunday of Year B
(Mark 7:31-37)
September 6, 2009

“Are you saved?” This was the question posed to me by a born-again Christian, while I was seated in a restaurant. When I said, no, he immediately told me to accept Jesus as my personal savior, and I would be saved. Before I could object, I swiftly tacked the appropriate verse from Acts, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30). The theological underpinning for this claim is that, Jesus, according to this born-again, has saved us from sin on the cross, and all a person needs to do is to accept him in faith. There is some truth to that proposition, of course, for Christ died on the cross to save sinners. Barring other theological issues that arise from it, however, it must be stressed, thought, that salvation cannot be circumscribed to forgiveness of sins, if by sin one understands a transgression of a law. It would be wrong to limit Christ’s saving work to it. The three readings today widen our concept of what it means to be saved.

We can begin by examining the Gospel. Jesus’ salvific work finds another description in the reaction of the people to the healing of the deaf-mute: “He has done everything well! He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:37). Undoubtedly, Mark portraits Jesus as the perfect fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that we find in the 1st Reading, speaking of Israel’s salvation: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing” (Isa 35:5-6). In this oracle, Isaiah sees the destruction of Israel ’s enemies as precondition for the liberation of the people, and, on the positive side, the glory of God manifested in the transformation of the nation, especially among the most unfortunate—the blind, deaf, mute and dumb.

The point should be obvious. When we speak of salvation, we cannot circumscribe it to forgiveness of sins, or to spiritual healing. If we are to be true to the Gospel reading, our concept of salvation should include not only forgiveness of sins, but also physical healing, freedom from sickness and infirmity, the experience of bodily wholeness. We must speak of the liberation of man from bodily and spiritual infirmity and the experience of spiritual and bodily integrity. For this reason, whenever we contribute to the physical well-being of people, we do our share in the work of salvation. In itself, physical suffering is evil, and it is not God’s will that people suffer senselessly. In fact, it is because of the concern of the Church for the bodily health that she became involved in the systematic care of the sick. In the middle ages, we had the medical care of the infirm in monasteries and the Knights of Hospitalers. The philosophical foundation of this is quite simply: man is not only a soul, he is also a body, and has a body.

But there is more to that. Man is a social being. To be alone is to be less than human. We must live with other people. We forge bond of relationships that bind us together. That is why it is true to say that we become human or less-than-human through and with others. If we go back to the 1st Reading and the Gospel, we find that the liberation of Israel includes the experience of wholeness by the unfortunate members of society—the blind, deaf, dumb and mute. At the time of Jesus, these people belonged to the degraded and expendable class. Because of their physical defects, they were not part of the pure Jewish community. The Jewish society practically had no need of them. They were stripped of their rights: they could not even enter the Temple . They were discriminated against. And when people are discriminated against, of course, they do not enjoy salvation.

In view of this, Jesus’ healing was not simply an act of liberating them from their physical defects. Of no less consequence, they were liberated from social and religious discrimination, for they were enabled to worship in the Temple and enjoy the company of others. In other words, healing restored them to the community of Israel . Salvation then implies equality and participation. As the community of the saved, we are all equal before God our Father, and we have no basis to treat other people differently. Understandably enough, James, in the 2nd Reading (James 2:1-5), says that our faith is belied by our partiality shown to others, like the rich.

Clearly, then, salvation is co-extensive with the various dimensions of the human person: physical, mental, spiritual, and social.

1 comment:

  1. There are people who think they are save but they might not be save and there are people who thinks they are not save but with repentance and humility they might be the ones who are save. Why? Because a person who already believed that he/she is saved will dwell in complacency that he/she has nothing to worry and strive for anymore. And then end up on this stagnant stage of acquired holiness, of being an elite or chosen ones of an idolatrous god. In itself an entrapment by the evil one, believing that they are already save, they had committed themselves to the sin of arrogance and pride and they became blind and deaf to anyone who will tell them otherwise and even to the consequence of there sins. Because they see their suffering as a gift from their god. As Fr. Benedict Groeschel always say on his EWTN program and I quote, “anyone who found a god that they know, had created in themselves an idol, a mental god”. A mental god that becomes an end in itself and so has no more chance of getting deeper to the heart where God resides.

    In contrast with a person who does not believe he is save. So he strive with all his faculties to seek the truth and listen to those who has the message of salvation. If this person find out the truth even if it is not clear to him and accepted the narrow way to salvation, he will be the one that will be save. The point to remember here is the way to salvation is narrow and hard not like the salvation that you only have to pray a short verse of prayer and you will already be “born again” and be save. This prayer can be authentic because it invoke our Lord, but it is only a beginning not the end. You may experience some vibrant consolation with it but it does not stay for long. If your conversion is authentic God will lead you back to the Way of the Cross, the narrow road. He will tell you to pick up your cross and follow Him. As the saying goes,”when it is too good to be true it usually is a trap”.

    Salvation belongs and is the will of God alone. No one can save you but God. And God can save anyone he wants, and we don't know and it is not our business to know His criteria. The rule of thumb is not to mess with God. Huwag na huwag mong pangungunahan ang Diyos. Much of our afflictions and of our World afflictions are the consequence of messing up with God. With all our egotistic intentions gets in the way of God's will.