Salvation

Salvation - Pope Francis   


The Lord does not save us with a letter, with a decree, but has already saved us and continues to save us with “his love”; he restores to human beings their “dignity and hope”. For love of us, God through his only begotten Son “became one of us, walked among us”.

At Easter man is restored to his lost dignity and is, consequently, “given hope”. This is salvation. The Lord gives us the dignity we have lost. This is the road of salvation, and it is beautiful: love alone makes it so. We are worthy, we are men and women of hope.

It happens, however, that at times “we want to save ourselves and we believe that we can. Maybe we don't exactly say it, but that’s how we live”. For example when we think: “I can save myself with money. I am secure, I have some money, there is no problem... I have dignity: the dignity of being rich”. But all that is not enough. Think of the Gospel parable, of that man who had the full granary and said: ‘I will make another, to have more and more, and then I will sleep peacefully”. And the Lord responds: ‘You fool! You will die tonight’. That kind of salvation is wrong, it is temporary, apparent.

Lord, I believe. I believe in your love. I believe that your love has saved me. I believe that your love has given me a dignity that I did not have. I believe that your love gives me hope. It is beautiful to believe in love, because it is the truth. It is the truth of our life.



Why are there people who have their heart closed to salvation?

Fear is the answer to the question because salvation scares us. We need salvation, but at the same time we are afraid of it. When the Lord comes to save us, we must give everything, and at that point he commands; and we fear this. Men want to be in control, they want to be their own masters. And so, salvation does not come, the consolation of the Spirit does not reach us.

Furthermore, the
Beatitudes are “the law of those who have been saved” and have opened their heart to salvation. “It was the People of God that followed John the Baptist first and then the Lord”, precisely because they were in need of salvation. But there were also those who “went to test this new doctrine and then to quarrel with Jesus”. Unfortunately they had closed hearts.

Ask the Lord for “the grace to follow him”, but not with the liberty of the Pharisees and Sadducees who became hypocrites because they wanted “to follow him only with human freedom”. Hypocrisy is exactly that: “Not allowing the Spirit to change our hearts with his salvation. The freedom that the Spirit gives us is also a sort of slavery, a slavery to the Lord that sets us free. It is another kind of liberty”.

Man often runs the risk of trying to “bargain”, to take what is convenient for us, “a little of this, a little of that”. It’s like “making a fruit salad: a little of the Spirit and a little of the spirit of the world”. However with God there is no halfway house: the person chooses either “one thing or the other”. The Lord is clear: no one can serve two masters. One either serves the Lord or the spirit of the world. It is impossible to mix everything together.




Christians are like clay vases because they are weak, since they are sinners. Nevertheless between us poor, earthen vessels and the power of Jesus Christ is a dialogue; it is the dialogue of salvation. When this dialogue assumes the tone of self- justification, it means that something is not working and that there is no salvation. The humility of a Christian is that of one who follows the path pointed out by the Apostle. “We must really recognize our sins, and not present ourselves with a false image”.

Brothers, we have a treasure: the Saviour Jesus Christ, the Cross of Jesus Christ is the treasure in which we rejoice, but let us not forget to also confess our sins for it is only in this way the dialogue is Christian, Catholic, and concrete. Jesus Christ did not save us with an idea, or an intellectual programme. He saved us with his flesh, with the concreteness of the flesh. He lowered himself, became man, and was made flesh until the end. You can only understand a treasure like this if you are transformed into clay vases.



Even we, all of us, have enemies — all of us. Some are weak enemies, some strong. So often we too become the enemies of others; we do not love them. Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies.

This is no easy matter, and in general, we think that Jesus is asking too much of us. We think: ‘Let's leave this to the cloistered sisters who are holy, a few holy souls!’. But this is not the right attitude. Jesus says that you must do this, otherwise you are like the Publicans, like the pagans, and you are not Christians. In fact, how can we love those who decide to bomb and kill so many people? How can we love who for love of money do not allow medicines to get to those who are in need, to the elderly and let them die?. And once again: How can we love people who seek only their interests and power and do so much evil?.

This is the mystery of
salvation: with forgiveness, with love for our enemy, we become poorer. But this poverty is a seed bearing fruit for others, as Jesus' poverty became grace for us all, salvation.




"The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord” (Ps 37[36]:39). This Psalm verse, reminds us of the truth that “salvation is a gift the Lord gives”: it can’t be bought nor obtained through study, for it is always a gift, a present. But the real question is: “How to protect this salvation? What to do so this salvation remains in us and bears fruit, as Jesus explains, like a seed or kernel of mustard?” Mark (4:26-35).

Hebrews (10:32-39), there are criteria to protect this present, this gift of salvation; in order to allow this salvation to go forth and bear its fruit in us.

The first criterion is that of
memory. In fact, we read in the text: “Brethren, recall the former days, after you received the light of Christ”. Those are “the days of the first love”, as the prophets say: it is “the day of the encounter with Jesus”. Because, when we encountered Jesus, or better yet, when “He let Himself be encountered by us, for it is He who does all” — “it brought great joy, the will to do great things”, as the same author of the Letter explains. Therefore, the first criterion to protect the gift of salvation is “not to forget those first days” marked by “certain enthusiasm”: most of all, “do not forget” that “first love”.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews then goes on, emphasizing the “joy that enabled you to bear all things”, to a point when “all seemed meagre in those former days, and one went forth with enthusiasm”. The Letter exhorts us not to abandon that courage — namely ‘this honesty’ — that parrhesìa of those former days. It is indeed that “first love” which made grow within us that courage, that ‘let’s go on!’, that enthusiasm.

The call, however, is to not abandon honesty. But, “abandon” is not even the right word, if we go to the original text we find a powerful expression: “Do not throw away, do not waste, do not reject honesty”. It is like a rejection: do not push away this honesty, this courage, the courage of the former days.

This is why memory is so important, to remember the grace received. Indeed, if we push away this enthusiasm which comes from our memory of that first love, this enthusiasm which comes from the first love then what comes is that serious danger to Christians: warmth. For
lukewarm Christians stay there, idle; and yes, they are Christians, but they have forgotten that first love, they have lost their enthusiasm. What’s more, lukewarm Christians have also lost patience, that ‘tolerating’ things in life with the spirit of Jesus’ love; that ‘tolerating’, that bearing difficulties “on one’s shoulders’. This is why, lukewarm Christians, the poor souls, are in grave danger.

In this regard, there are two images which really strike me, and of which each person should be warned: “But you are lukewarm, be careful!”. St Peter, in his Second Letter, uses the image of the dog who turns back to its own vomit. And this image is distasteful, however, it is a fitting example of “the lukewarm Christian” who returns to that “first love, as if that love never existed”.

The second image, also unpleasant is the one that Jesus recounts of the person who wants to follow Him, and does follow Him, and then He casts out the
demon. This demon, who has gone out of the man, passes through the desert with the intention of returning to that man, to that woman from which he came. And when he returns, he finds the house in order, clean and nice. Thus he gets angry, goes, looks for seven demons worse than him and returns to take possession of that house. And in this way the person isn’t wounded, because it involves ‘polite’ demons: who even knock on the door to come in, but they do come in. The same happens to a lukewarm Christian who doesn’t know who is knocking at the door and opens it, even saying come in! But, Jesus says, in the end, that soul ends up even worse than before.

These two images of the warmth of the Christian make us think. This way we must never forget our first love; rather, we should always remember that first love. This is why the answer to the question how do I go on? is: “with
hope”. That is what the Letter to the Hebrews says to every Christian: For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry.

And thus there are two parameters available to the Christian: “memory and hope”. Ultimately it means reclaiming the memory so as not to lose that most beautiful experience of the first love which nourishes our hope. So often, hope is dark. But the Christian goes forward. He believes. He goes, for he knows that hope does not disappoint, to find Jesus.

These two parameters are the very framework in which we are able to protect this salvation of the righteous which comes from the Lord, this gift of the Lord. We must protect this salvation, for the little mustard seed to grow and bear its fruit. However, many Christians, cause pain, create heartache — so many Christians!. They are the many Christians who go halfway and fail along this path toward the encounter with Jesus. Even if the journey began with the encounter with Jesus, in the middle of the road, they have lost the memory of that first love and have no hope.

Ask the Lord for the grace to protect the present, the gift of salvation. It is a gift that each Christian must protect on this journey that always reclaims the memory and hope. But, He alone can give us this grace: may He send us the Holy Spirit to walk on this path.




Pope Francis        29.02.16   Holy Mass  Santa Marta      2 Kings 5: 1-15B,        Luke 4: 24-30

The Church prepares us for Easter and today makes us reflect on salvation: what do we think salvation is like, the salvation that we all want?. The story of “Naaman’s disease”, narrated in the Second Book of Kings (5:1-15), presents the fact of death: and afterwards?. Indeed, when there is sickness, it always leads us back to that thought: salvation. But, how does salvation come about? What is the path to salvation? What is God’s revelation to us Christians with regard to salvation?

The key word to understanding the Church’s message today is
disdain. After “Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house and asked to be cured, Elisha sent a boy to tell him to wash in the Jordan seven times. A simple thing. Perhaps for this reason “Naaman disdained”, exclaiming: “I have made such a journey, with so many gifts...”. Instead everything was resolved by simply bathing in the river. Moreover, Naaman continued, “our rivers are more beautiful than this one”.

In Luke (4:24-30), the inhabitants of Nazareth similarly disdained after hearing Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah that Sabbath in the synagogue, when he said “‘today this has happened’, speaking of the liberation, of how the people would be freed”. The people commented: “What do you think about this man? He is one of us, we saw him grow up from boyhood, he never studied”. And the people “disdained” and even “wanted to kill him”.

Again, later on Jesus felt this disdain on the part of the leaders, the doctors of the law who sought salvation in moral casuistry — ‘this can be done to this point, to that point...’ — and thus I don’t know how many commandments they had, and the poor people.... This is why the people did not trust them. The same thing happened with the Sadducees, who sought salvation in compromises with the powerful men of the world, with the emperor: some with clerical networks, others with political networks sought salvation in this way. But the people had an instinct and didn’t believe in them. Instead, they believed in Jesus because he spoke with authority.

And so, “why this disdain?”. It is because, in our imagination salvation must come from something great, from something majestic: only the powerful can save us, those who have strength, who have money, who have power, these people can save us. Instead, “God’s plan is different”. Thus, they feel disdain because they cannot understand that salvation comes only from little things, from the simplicity of the things of God. And when Jesus proposes the way of salvation, he never speaks of great things, but only “little things”.

Re-read the Gospel
Beatitudes Mathew 5: 1-12 — “you will be saved if you do this” — and of Matthew, Chapter 25. They are the two pillars of the Gospel: ‘Come, come with me because you have done this’. It involves simple things: you did not seek salvation or hope in power, in networks, in negotiations, no; you simply did this. Yet actually, this gives rise to much disdain.

Prepare for Easter, by reading the Beatitudes and reading Matthew 25, and thinking and seeing if something about this causes me disdain, takes peace away from me. Because disdain is a luxury that only the
vain, the proud allow themselves.

Here at the end of the Beatitudes Jesus says something powerful: “Blessed is he who is not shocked by me”, who “does not disdain this, who does not feel disdain”. It will do us good to take a little time — today, tomorrow — and read the Beatitudes, read Matthew and pay attention to what is happening in our heart: whether there is something that causes disdain. And “ask the Lord for the grace to understand that the only way to salvation is the folly of the Cross, that is, the annihilation of the Son of God, of his becoming small. In today’s liturgy, “the little thing” is “represented by bathing in the Jordan and by the little village of Nazareth.