A while back, a stranger at a gas station asked
me (Ann) if I had been "saved." With my own roots formed in another
faith, I understood his well-meant intention. I smiled and honestly
replied, "Yes! By the blood of
Christ!" For the moment, that satisfied both of us and we parted
What I wanted to say was, "By the blood of
Christ…but wait! There is more, so much more! Salvation is like the
chemistry set we once gave our oldest son at Christmas. He
disappeared into the basement and stayed there until spring
discovering the secrets inside the little bottles.
Things got mixed together in weird combinations,
sometimes followed by him saying things like "Oops" or "Something
has slightly caught fire!" Sometimes he rushed upstairs to show us
one of his creations or share an amazing discovery. It took weeks
for him to learn what worked and what didn't. Meanwhile, he enjoyed
the time it took to "unwrap" this gift.
Salvation, too, is far more than a one-time
overwhelming gift. We recognize this in every Eucharist. Like all
good gifts, salvation must be opened, savored and explored to the
fullest. That takes a lifetime.
We are committed to Christ in Baptism and
recommitted in Confirmation. Hopefully, the more we grow in
understanding, the more we give our hearts over to Christ on an
We have a friend who describes this life-long
transformation as "marinating in the Spirit." We like her
description. We also like the term, "practicing Catholics," because
that is exactly what we do. We Catholics keep on practicing. The
more we practice our faith, the better we get. Spiritually, we hope
to move on from playing the simple scales of faith until our lives
become living "symphonies."
As for conversion, as St. Augustine discovered,
our faith calls us to commitment not just with our minds but with
our hearts. St. Augustine actually had two conversions. The first
was an intellectual understanding of God's gift of salvation.
At age 25, he became an "intellectual" Christian
after which he is said to have often prayed: "Lord, make me a good
and chaste Christian, but not yet." Nine years later, he lost his
heart to Christ.
I think salvation can happen either way. Some of
us, overwhelmed by the gift of Christ, lose our hearts but have
little understanding about how to live our faith. Others of us
spend far too much time trying to grasp the meaning of salvation
while we remain bystanders in the work of the Kingdom; saved
perhaps, but of little use.
The gift of salvation is full of life and amazing
discoveries. Sometimes we can hardly wait to share something
remarkable we have learned, while other times all we can say is
"Oops." It is the nature of the gift that, along the way, things
will catch fire.