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May 15, 2024
Sacredness down the slippery slope
May 15, 2024

Salvation – God’s ultimate plan

Q: Archbishop J, is God’s plan of salvation working?

To know if God’s plan of salvation is working, we first need to understand it. At the very beginning, in the garden, God promised salvation as soon as the humans fell into sin: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15).

This first promise is followed with many attempts by God to lead the human family to love of God and neighbour. That is the stuff of the Old Testament: God’s revelation through successive covenants, with each covenant deepening the relationship and drawing the People of God into a depth of intimacy and understanding of God.

St Paul, speaking to the Corinthians, uses the image of a veil to speak about the movement from the old to the new Covenant. He says: “Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Cor 3:15–16).

At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel already gave the purpose of Jesus’ birth: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Lk 1:31–33). Jesus is the Messiah King that Israel has been awaiting, and He is also the Son of God.

Isaiah, in eight BC, had prophesied: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Is 7:14). The evangelist St John puts it most clearly: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:1, 14). God came amongst us as a child and grew “in wisdom, stature and favour with God and man” (Lk 2:52).

The first part of God’s plan was to prepare a people who would expect Him, and then He would come amongst them as a human being to live, teach, and demonstrate the way of love. This is the stuff of the four Gospels.



How is this salvation? St Paul puts it eloquently: “Many people were made sinners because one man did not obey. But one man did obey. That is why many people will be made right with God” (Rom 5:19).

The apostle is saying the disobedience of Adam and Eve caused all to be born in sin. But the obedience of Christ made all righteous. On the night before He died, Jesus gave His disciples two gifts, the priesthood and the Eucharist (cf Mt 19:28, Jn 17:1ff.):

During the Passover: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:26–28).

Here, He gave them the bread of life (Jn 6) and inaugurated a new covenant in His blood, where “the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially” present (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1374) to His disciples for all time. This is vital. He gives us Himself as food for our journey in a new covenant.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39). This full conscious obedience of Christ to endure the most barbaric act of hatred, the cross, while still giving Himself fully and freely in love to us, is pivotal.

Through His ‘yes’ to the cross, Jesus became the sinless lamb, sacrificed to take away the sins of the world. Says St Paul:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor 15: 3–8)

God raised Christ Jesus, my Lord. Because He is raised, we are raised with Him. Death has no more power (Rom 6:9). Jesus, 40 days after the Resurrection, ascended into Heaven to sit at His Father’s right hand (Acts 1:1–11).

By leaving His disciples, He showed the greatest act of hope in humanity. He completely trusts them with the mission entrusted to Him by His Father, giving them complete authority in Heaven and Earth (cf Mt 16:18, Jn 20:23).


Life in Christ

The Book of Hebrews helps us understand the significance of His free gift of love and God’s response. The author says: “Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again, he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb 10:11–12).

The text continues: “Through the blood of Christ we have the right to enter the sanctuary,” (Heb 10:19). What was possible, in the old covenant, for the priest, once a year by lot, is now possible for all disciples in the New Covenant for all time.

Because He was God, Jesus’ act of complete love and obedience transcends time and space. This means all karma, past, present, and future, is obliterated by His free and conscious act of love.

In Baptism, we become children of God and members of Christ’s Body. This means that each of us is intimately connected to Him as a member of His body.

Some 50 days after the Resurrection, 120 disciples were gathered in the Upper Room with Mary His mother when the Holy Spirit came upon them with a mighty wind and tongues of fire (Acts 2:1–13). They became witnesses to Him “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

On the cross when He died, blood and water flowed from His side (Jn 19:34). The Catechism says: “The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible ‘to be born of water and the Spirit’ in order to enter the Kingdom of God” (1225).

Because He ascended to the right hand of the Father, each of us is connected to Heaven and God’s power and love. In this new covenant, the Holy Spirit guides and teaches us to open ourselves to Christ and God’s will (Jer 31:33).


Our response

All we need is to bend our hearts to His will in things little and great (cf Mt 6:10). To enable this, we have the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments in which He is present. That is His plan for transforming the world and ushering in His Kingdom. The first apostles and disciples did this: Read the Acts of the Apostles. We, in our turn, must find a way.

Look at all Christ has done. Look at the small thing we must do: bend our hearts to His will—through daily sacrifice and prayer. If the plan is not working, it is because we have not kept our part of the covenant, for our God is faithful.