Third Last Sunday after Pentecost 6.11.16 Salvation (Readings 5th Sunday after Epiphany)
At this time of the Church year we pray especially for the dead.
We pray for their salvation (a favourable judgment at the point of death); and their sanctification (purification from sin, if required), so they are ready for Heaven.
This prayer is important work. If the final destination for everyone is either Heaven or Hell, it is immensely important to get this right.
With rescue missions people try desperately to save as many as possible, eg from the rubble of an earthquake. This is the same idea, but much more important still.
Salvation (rescue) is necessary because something has gone wrong.
Plenty has gone wrong with this world, and it all goes back to what happened in the Garden of Eden.
Eden was the prototype of Heaven. Everything was in place and at peace. The inhabitants had everything they needed or ever could need, and most of all they had complete unity with God.
The first sin shattered that unity and took with it many of the other blessings. From then on we have been suffering sickness, pain, death, alienation, loss of direction, and so on.
Salvation means restoring all these things to their original state.
The best thing about this original state was that it was no effort to be good, or do good. It came naturally.
It was the way human nature was created, to live peaceably and comfortably in the presence of God. It was not meant to be the toilsome business it has become.
We reclaim Paradise (or claim Heaven) when we live in union with God, despite the many difficulties of living in this very un-paradise world.
With the grace of God working in us we can discover and express His goodness in every situation no matter how hopeless things may look.
And we discover His grace working in our own selves, enabling us to do things we never could before – such as loving difficult neighbours, overcoming sinful habits…
Salvation is getting to Heaven as a destination, but also overcoming the various obstacles on the way. Salvation is both a destination and a process.
Salvation means being good; or if we are not good, then at least being sorry for that; being sufficiently contrite to receive the saving mercy of God.
We have to work for our salvation, because of the difficult conditions surrounding us.
We work out our salvation in fear and trembling, as St Paul put it (Ph 2,12).
We make it the central question of our lives, using the time we have, to grow in grace and union with God.
The closer we get to God the easier it becomes to serve Him. The closer we come the freer we are to control our own desires and decisions. We are no longer slaves to sin and bad habits; we find being and doing good comes more naturally – as it was always meant to be.
While we go through this we pray the same for everyone else – living and dead.
For various reasons a lot of people do not regard the issue of salvation as important. They might think Heaven is a foregone conclusion, not something to worry about. They might think there is no Heaven. They might think there is a Heaven, but they themselves have no hope of getting there.
For all of these categories we pray. The grace of God can break through in each case.
In terms of today’s Gospel, may the final harvest be a lot of wheat and very few weeds.