The meaning of Salvation

Sunday readings in brief 4 Lent C
Jos 5:9-12; Ps 33(34); 2 Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3,11-32
The meaning of Salvation
Dear friends, today we begin the fourth week of Lent. We continue to remind ourselves about the three most important things in our Lenten observance, which are intensified prayer, Almsgiving and true repentance from our sinful ways. These things will lead us to eternal salvation. Today the readings are talking to us about the meaning of salvation. Many times, we use the term salvation but the question is do we really appreciate what it means?
Salvation means to set free from or deliver from a harmful condition. It is to rescue from a bad condition and put in a good condition. Therefore, the one who has been saved abandons the previous condition or situation and enters a new one. People are saved from external conditions such as drowning, fire, war, etc. or from personal conditions such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, crime and sinful life.
In the first reading, the people of Israel celebrates their first Passover to mark the day when they were saved from life of slavery in Egypt. This day concluded the whole process of salvation that lasted for forty years. It means that salvation of the Israelites was more than the action of removing them from Egypt safely. The people had to go through to a process of cleansing from all contamination in Egypt. We too have been saved from our previous condition of sin through baptism. This, however, does not mean that we have attained full salvation because we are still under the process until we reach the promised land.
Many Christians are misled to think that once one is baptized he or she acquires a direct ticket to heaven despite the kind of life he or she leads afterwards. This is not the case, what we acquire through baptism is only the candidature for heaven. How we live after baptism is the process that may or may not lead us to eternal life. It means that if we want we can enter heaven because through the death and resurrection of Christ the doors have been opened for all those will complete the process.
As St. Paul reminds us, we who have been baptized have become ambassadors of the Good News of salvation to others. If there is a very good hospital with sophisticated medical equipment and highly qualified health personnel and no one knows about it, it does not serve the purpose. Those who came to know about it and are treated and healed from their sickness becomes ambassadors of the hospital to the rest of the population. We too, are called to testify about the salvation we have received in Christ to others and bring them to taste for themselves like the psalmist sings, “Taste and see that the Lord is Good”. Without tasting, there is no conviction.
If anyone would want to appreciate the full meaning of “to be saved”, then I suggest that you ask the Prodigal Son in today’s Gospel reading. This is someone who had left his home, his father and his brother, which was good life, and decided to go far, thinking that there was better life somewhere else. When he realizes that North or South, East or West, home is the best place, he makes a very difficult decision to go back. We are told that after experiencing very severe self-imposed sufferings, finally he gathers the courage to back home. This is what makes this son a role model for all of us – the courage to decide to go back from wherever we have strayed.
The compassion of our God is demonstrated in the actions of the father of the Prodigal Son. We are told that the father had been waiting and hoping that one day his son would come back to him. When this day comes after a very long wait, the father’s joy is tremendous. He does not listen to the rehearsed poem of pleading for mercy from his son but restores him back to the dignity of the son. This is symbolized in the dressing with a best robe, a ring put on his finger, the sandals on his feet and the feast to celebrate his return.
In this parable Jesus, want to demonstrate the love of the Father to us. Dear friends, let us not wait until our condition is as pathetic as that of the Prodigal Son who was living with pigs for us to make that important decision to go back home. Let us also become true ambassadors to our brothers and sisters who do not know the love of God so that they too can come and taste for themselves.
Have a blessed Sunday.
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

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