Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we can see our Lord as a healer, a physician, and a savior, however what exactly does “saving” or “salvation” mean in God’s terms? We are saved… from what exactly?[1]

It may be easier to start with what salvation does NOT mean—salvation is not a heavenly turnstile where you pay your dues in life, so you get your ticket to Paradise. It’s not a life-sized “Get Out of Jail Free” card that you get for towing the line and repeating certain prayers.

Salvation is more than that, salvation is reunification with God, the ultimate total healing of all that has been destroyed and broken apart by evil. God’s hope, and will, is salvation for all creatures. But we know that sins of stubbornness, of pride and refusal to obey God still exist, and still cause constant disease, war, and chaos in our world. Is there anyone here who cannot testify to the pain, death, heartache, and loss that taints even the happiest times of our lives?

So, how is this cosmic mess to be cleaned up, healed, returned to the Kingdom of wholeness?

All that we really have left is hope. As one Catholic theologian says it, salvation is about the healing of our existence, and the fulfillment of life[2]

In the gospel today, Jesus shows that Christian hope is about getting free of anything that is merely temporary; because we need to be preparing for “the permanent destruction of appearance.”

The outer appearance of everyone and everything as we know it is just a shell, and will one day be destroyed. This is very difficult for people who have become obsessed with judging value by one’s wealth, car, shoes, clothing, house, and neighborhood. From political parties, to the school and church we attend, we all say “I’m not prejudiced!” but in one glance, we judge harshly. Jesus shows us that every age has discriminated against the poor or “unattractive.”

My brother, my sister: practice looking beyond surface appearances if you want a new, all-inclusive vision of life. Too often we keep fixating on “the next big thing”—a party this weekend, new shoes we’ve just got to have, or that beach trip that everyone’s going on.

Instead, seeing the bigger picture offers a “saving grace” to us and everyone around us, because we all need to be loved for who we really are. This is the salvation of unlimited love God is planning for us—because nothing that is limited and shallow can be part of that future.

My brothers and sisters let us reflect along this week on what Jesus has done for each one of us. There are many reasons to live in a deep spirit of thanksgiving. Let us reflect on the words of the crowd when they said, He has done everything well[3], and may the grace of God always be with us so we will never forget the abundance of treasures that we have received through Jesus Christ and the power of His Spirit ■

[1] SEPTEMBER 6, 2009, TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7a, James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37.
[2] “Salvation is the essential object of hope, the guarantee of permanent healing and consolation. Finally, “Christian hope finds its certainty in the person of Jesus Christ…”. Karl Rahner, Dict. Of Theology. Karl Rahner, SJ (1904-1984) was a German theologian who, alongside Bernard Lonergan and Hans Urs von Balthasar, is considered one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century. He was born in Freiburg, Germany, and died in Innsbruck, Austria. Before the Council, Rahner had worked alongside Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac and Marie-Dominique Chenu, theologians associated with an emerging school of thought called the Nouvelle Théologie, elements of which had been criticized in the encyclical Humani Generis of Pope Pius XII.
[3] Mk. 7:37.

Ilustration: Jesus the healer, Daniel Bonnell (contemporary); he graduated from the Atlanta College of Art and has studied painting techniques of Rembrandt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris