Monday, July 7, 2014

Eternal Events Rippling through Time

"Are you saved?" is a question many Protestants ask Catholics.

Our only answer can be, "I am being saved."

This confounds them, for it's too biblical.

That's right, too biblical.

You see, the Bible makes it clear that this is a process.  "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling," as St. Paul says (Phil. 2:12).  We are to "grow" in the "grace and knowledge" of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to St. Peter (2 Pet. 3:18).  It's not a one-time thing.  Our salvation doesn't end the day we're baptized or the day we confess Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Savior.  On the contrary, that's when it begins - and in fact every day we get out of bed it begins again.  The story of our salvation won't end until the day we die.

In the same way, Christ's sacrifice, which has been completed historically once and for all, still continues both on the altar of the Mass (which Protestants would reject) and also in His Body, which is the Church - which is you and me.  This they might admit, for Paul tells us

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Col. 1:24)

In other words, Christ continues to suffer.

He suffers in His Church, in the victims of sex abuse enabled by the bishops, in the lies we tell that bruise His Body, in the many sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit that we commit.  And when we suffer the effects of our own sins and the effects of the sins of others we "fill up" what remains to be filled in the suffering of the cross.

So then, Golgotha continues in some mysterious way, as does the Resurrection.  As does the Incarnation, for that matter.  These events are both in time and beyond time.  They have happened historically, but they are still happening, still being played out, eternal events rippling through time.

This sounds abstract and pretty.  But what it boils down to is something very uneasy and disturbing.

Ryan G. Duns says ...

I find myself disheartened when I read essays published in Catholic forums, or read the comment boxes attached to them (note: reading comments is often an invitation to spiritual desolation). I find myself sad because people treat the Church as though it were a solid and stable thing, rather than a dynamic process over time. 

He does not mean that the doctrines of the Church change in their essence over time, but that the Church is a living thing, not a dead thing.  It is developing and growing Holy, as we are.  It is, like God, not something we can put in a box or in our back pockets.

So when we see faults and sins and evils in other Christians or in ourselves we should not despair.  Rather, we should be motivated to repent and (by God's grace) to become the Holy Church - for sanctity is a mark of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that is the living Body of Christ.

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic.

"But how can you call the Catholic Church HOLY?" I once asked a friend.  Open your eyes and you'll find very few Catholics who are holy.  As I've said before, Christians are exactly like everybody else - only worse.

But that's really not true.  Or at least it need not be true.  The grace is there, purchased by the suffering and resurrection of Our Lord, made accessible to us by the sacraments and prayer.  We only need to cooperate with that grace.

Because the Church is Holy in so far as you and I are holy.

And that is a life long process.

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