Salvation & Suffering

bodyofchristWhen I was a young mom going to bible studies at Protestant communities, many Protestants asked me if I was “saved.” As a cradle Catholic my answers often didn’t satisfy them and they proceeded to try to “save” me. This was their need to impose what made them feel secure onto me instead of allowing God to do His transforming work. This is called proselytizing, something hospital chaplains of any denomination do not do.

In the Catholic faith, the question of human suffering is addressed better than in any other religion, I believe. Catholics all agree that at baptism we are “saved.” However, our salvation doesn’t stop there. Much like the Protestant tradition of “Progressive Salvation,” Catholics are being “saved” moment by moment, day by day as we become more and more the hands and feet of Jesus Christ resurrected in the world today.

For Catholics, the Real Presence of Christ in the communion bread should bring people to the awareness that we are surrounded by other people who all carry a piece of divinity within them. A Catholic priest once said to me, “If you can’t swallow your neighbor, you can’t swallow the Host.” It is here that all human suffering is united with the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Imagine Jesus Christ as the head of the body of Christ. The rest of us make up other parts of the body. In order for us to become one with Jesus Christ, we must embrace our sufferings today just as Christ embraced his suffering on the cross. As Catholics, we do not “save” ourselves. Christ’s salvation is full and complete all by itself. But if we want to be truly one with Him, then we must walk the same walk, and drink of the same cup. For Catholics, salvation is an ongoing process of purification as we are transformed into the reflection of Christ alive on earth today. Our focus is not on “being saved” so we have a free ticket into heaven. Our focus is on “How can I best serve You, Lord?”

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