Salvation: It’s About Life Not Death
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
“The Church has gotten too concerned with the world and politics. We’ve to get back to what we should care about: praising God and saving souls. If I want to talk about ending poverty, I’ll go to a Red Cross meeting. I want to hear about God and salvation at Church. The Church is always complaining that we’re too materialistic; it’s as much to blame for that as anyone else. We never hear about the spiritual life anymore. It’s always “justice this” and “justice that.”
The person sharing his frustration with me had much more to say but this gives you the sense of his ire. Many folks – many Catholics – share his dissatisfaction so I offer some reflections on his statement.
Long before Jesus, religious leaders were trying to get folks to see that it makes no sense to pray to the Creator of life while taking or harming or not caring about the life of one’s neighbor.
For Jesus, as for the Hebrew prophets before him, God’s salvation did not begin at death; it began in the present – here and now. To be concerned for one’s salvation means to be concerned for her life. The life we know and the life we can influence is right here, right now.
For Jesus one’s spirituality was one’s union with the divine Spirit that guided him. To be a spiritual person was to live in harmony with the divine Spirit. It had nothing to do with choosing an immaterial reality over a material reality. Such an imaginary choice is not an issue of faith but, at most, one arising from bad philosophy.
Finally, for Jesus faith was inseparably bound up with justice and so with political and social realities. In biblical terms justice equals God’s way of doing things. We are just when we act as God acts. What Jesus taught is that God acts always lovingly to all people. God acts always for the benefit of all people. For us acting spiritually and justly will always entail acting politically and socially.